As about 1,500 Johns Hopkins University seniors mark the end of their bright college years today, the school's resurgent men's lacrosse team will be on a chartered jet to Massachusetts, where its seniors will try to extend their collegiate days by knocking off top-ranked Duke University in the NCAA Division I final four.
The private Baltimore university held an early commencement ceremony yesterday for the 11 graduating seniors on the varsity lacrosse team, as well as 15 members of the men's baseball team, who are in Appleton, Wis., to play in the NCAA Division III College World Series for the first time since 1989.
In front of more than 200 relatives, friends and teammates, President William R. Brody instructed the men seated before him in a campus auditorium to comport themselves on the sports fields in a manner that would bring "dignity, honor and respect" to Hopkins - and then ordered them to "wreak destruction, devastation and loss on all our opponents."
After the brief ceremony, Paul J. Rabil, a two-time first-team All-American lacrosse midfielder from Gaithersburg, said he plans to do just that, though he acknowledged that top-seeded Duke is "the most talented team in the country."
A political science major who has won two national lacrosse championships with Hopkins, Rabil said he has a job lined up as a financial analyst with real estate firm Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers in Washington, and also hopes to play Major League Lacrosse in the summers. He said he regrets missing the pageantry of today's university-wide convocations but that the special graduation "was really great, too. It was very intimate."
It was also very short.
The entire mini-commencement - though it included a processional, recessional, speeches, academic officers in full regalia and a live band - lasted about 20 minutes. That is one of the perks of an extended sport season, said Hopkins baseball coach Bob Rabb.
"Our players, one of the reasons they were hoping to go to the World Series was so they could have this graduation and not have to sit through the long three-hour normal graduation day," Babb said.
Brian T. Duddie, a pitcher on the baseball team, said the prospect of playing in the World Series after a 20-year drought at Hopkins overshadowed his formal entry into the real world. "Obviously, we'd rather be in the World Series even if we had no graduation," Duddie said, as his beaming mother fussed with his honors sash. "Our whole team agrees on that."
After the baseball playoffs, Duddie, a computer engineering major, plans to return to his hometown, San Diego, and work in hardware design.
Brody, who is retiring this year, promised to be "a bit more serious" in his final commencement address today as Hopkins' president. But yesterday, he attempted a lighter touch by paraphrasing a lesson called "the three-snake rule" from James L. Barksdale, a former chief executive officer of the Internet company Netscape Communications Corp.
"Rule number one: If you see a snake, kill it," Brody said. "Rule number two: Don't waste time killing dead snakes. But rule number three, and the most important one: Some of the greatest opportunities will look like snakes."
About 60 miles away in Wye Mills on the Eastern Shore, Gov. Martin O'Malley strived for poetic heights - and echoed his gubernatorial political stump speech - in remarks yesterday to more than 200 graduates of Chesapeake College.
"A commencement represents not an end, but a beginning, the pursuit of all things eternal," O'Malley said, according to his prepared remarks. "At the beginning and end of our days, there is a unity of spirit and matter."
Also yesterday, Towson University held the first of three consecutive days of commencement exercises, in which more than 2,000 bachelor's degrees and about 550 master's degrees are scheduled to be handed out.
Perhaps the most rousing graduation speech in this year's commencement season was delivered yesterday evening when Robert Parsons, a Highlandtown native who founded the Internet domain registry giant GoDaddy, sent off more than 400 University of Baltimore students at the Lyric Opera House. "The day you have worked so long for is finally here," Parsons said. "Party time tonight, baby, right? Oh, yeah!"
After regaling the audience with his colorful rags-to-riches story, Parsons exhorted the new graduates to dream big but always keep things in perspective.
"We're not here for a long time," he said. "We're here for a good time."