As Deanna Keith sat pensively, waiting for the hundreds of Loyola College graduates who would precede her on the stage, she got a welcome text message on her cell phone: "Mom, I'm proud of you."
It was from her 20-year-old daughter, one of many congratulations yesterday for Keith, 43. She and her sister received their master's degrees while a dozen family members, some from as far away as California, looked on.
"Everybody in the family is very, very proud," Keith said.
About 12,000 people attended the commencement ceremonies held at Baltimore's 1st Mariner Arena, the 154th commencement in Loyola's history. The Jesuit college, which has its campus in North Baltimore, awarded 799 bachelor's degrees and 872 graduate degrees.
Bob Costas, stopping off for an honorary doctorate on his way to help broadcast the Preakness, gave students more than a few laughs with self-deprecating comments and a few jibes at other commencement speakers in recent memory.
Costas was full of jokes about his own unworthiness to speak at a commencement, since he didn't finish his undergraduate studies at Syracuse University.
He also had a few barbs for the Loyola's men's basketball team, which almost set a record for consecutive losses in 2004, and for the commencement gaffes of Yogi Berra and Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey told students at Wellesley College in 1997 that "'Life's a journey,'" Costas said. "Really? I had never really quite heard it put that way before. ... Oprah, stop stealing Dr. Phil's stuff."
Costas also mentioned Berra's 1996 Montclair State speech, where the former Yankees' catcher told graduates, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
Costas praised the bravery and decency of Loyola women's lacrosse coach Diane Geppi-Aikens, who died in 2003 of brain cancer.
Finally, he urged students to "find something you love and believe in, something worthy of your talent and devotion, and do it as well as you can."
Keith said she is hoping her master's in business administration will help her up the ladder in her job at GMAC Residential Funding Corp., a subsidiary of the finance arm of General Motors.
Five years ago, she lost her job and had a tough time getting back into the work force, she said. Now, armed with an MBA, she felt good about her prospects.
Another treat was being on stage with her sister Danielle Ballantyne, who received a master's degree in education.
"It's going to be quite an adjustment," said Ballantyne, 41, who works at Loyola. "I'm so used to going home and writing papers and reading, that I feel like: What am I going to do now?"
Michael Abt, 22, knows exactly what he'll be doing. A biology major, Abt is on his way to the University of Pennsylvania to study immunology. Even though he still has five years of school left before he can finish his doctorate, he had bittersweet emotions about closing a chapter at Loyola.
"It's sad for most of us to know we won't be back next year," he said. "School's been part of our lives for 17 years, so I guess you could say this is a commencement for all of those years. It's an odd feeling."
Ian Briggs, 35, earned a master's in finance in one of the college's many part-time professional graduate programs. Originally from Trinidad and now living in Owings Mills, Briggs said he planned to continue at Loyola to earn his doctorate and hoped to enter the world of academia.
"When you start doing this, you always have more questions than answers," said Briggs, a consultant. "But once you get started, it's a natural progression to want to learn more and keep moving up. My goal is to take it further and get my Ph.D., and I got that from being here."
Loyola wasn't the only commencement yesterday. About 650 students were awarded bachelor's or master's degrees at McDaniel College in Westminster. Novelist Nora Roberts and financial writer Jane Bryant Quinn spoke at the ceremony.