Graduation: A Teacher’s, and Father’s, Perspective
May 17, 2017

“One day it will please us to remember even this.”
Virgil, The Aeneid

Graduation is always poignant for me. It is especially so this year.

This last weekend my eldest daughter graduated from Christendom College, where I am a professor of philosophy. I have taught her and her friends, among others, for the last four years.

At times such as this, one is drawn, and I think fittingly, to consider the bigger things in life. A couple of things especially struck me this weekend, and I tried to express them to some of my students and their families in a toast. I will briefly set them forth here.

Change is almost always hard, especially when it means leaving behind something that has been very precious. Parenting, and teaching, fundamentally involve leaving precious things behind. And this precisely because parenting and teaching seek to bring about change.

But this does not mean that the things left behind are not valued in themselves. Parenting and teaching are natural contexts for making connections of the deepest sort—connections in and through the process of becoming ourselves. On both sides.

I say to my graduates: no one else will ever quite understand what we did together in that classroom. And even more to the point, no one can ever take it away from us. What we did had a deeply enduring and indeed timeless quality to it. It will always be what it was, and it will always remain with us, especially because it concerned deep and unchanging truths—though we were changed as we began to see these truths together.

Similarly, we parents look back at the preciousness of earlier times, of when our children were younger, and we mourn the passing of what is no more. Even though there were very difficult moments, a retrospective glance can put all in a good perspective.

Because we were together, and we were striving to grow, and our efforts were blessed, we will hold these times as a precious memory. And indeed, it will please us to recall how blessed we are that we  shared these times together.

Image: my eldest and my youngest

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  1. Congratulations all around! What an enduring legacy to have been able to share with your loved ones and all those who witnessed both the spoken Word, and it’s lived experience. For some, actions speak louder than words but you’re shouting down thru the ages boldly as others watch, hopefully longing for their own chance at the lived witness to begin soon. Thank you for sharing such blessings with us all. God bless. Ginnyfree.

    1. Ginnyfree, Thank you so much for such beautiful words.

  2. Your last sentence reminds me of the closing speech in *Brothers Karamazov*: “You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home…. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.”

    1. Brian, What a great quotation. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  3. Congratulations to father and daughter! After having heard many of your lectures (and of your fellow profs!) at the ICC, I’m sure she received the best education.

    1. Tom, Thank you very much!

  4. That is profound and beautiful…thank you John!

    1. You are very welcome, Diana.

  5. Professor Cuddeback,

    As usual, beautiful post and congratulations to your lovely daughter on such a wonderful accomplishment!

    I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the part of your post in what you say to your graduates. I too am a teacher of Theology and every year I experience the mourning of my students moving on to bigger and greater things. At the end of the day I know my students are only entrusted to me for a short time in their lives and what an honor and privilege it is to have been a part of this great journey of their lives.

    “Gaudentes in Veritate”

    Elisa 🙂

    1. In 1998/99 I had the privilege of taking my 24hrs of philosophy prerequisites for seminary at Christendom, half of those credits in your classes. Aside from the classroom learning, I remember one day seeing you on the walking path teaching your oldest to skip. I learned that day that one of the best ways of learning about life is to live life with the joy I saw being shared between the two of you that day. I hold that as a precious memory! While change will always be around every corner, it’s the joyful path of life and learning that makes it a blessed encounter. Congratulations Dr. Cuddeback.

      1. Dear Fr. Clement, What a joy to hear from you. Thank you so much for preserving that memory for me! Now I have it again myself. What a blessing. God bless you always, Father, and thanks again.

    2. Elisa, Yes indeed. Rejoicing in the truth… Such a beautiful notion.

  6. Dr. Cuddeback, thank you so much for articulating all this! It’s so gratifying that you understand. 🙂 Since my own graduation last year, and all the sorrow that came with it, I’ve been considering these thoughts a good bit, but sometimes they’re hard to believe or remember; so it’s good to be reminded, especially so eloquently. I still sometimes grieve when I think of my friends and the life I had at Christendom, but it does help to remember that ultimately I’ve gained so much more than I’ve lost and, in the long run, what I’ve experienced will make my life fuller and more joyful. Deo gratias!

    1. Sarah, Thank your for sharing this. Clearly God is blessing you on your way. All the best to you.

  7. Congratulations to you and your daughter. That was one of the nicest expressions of change in education that I have read. You captured the reality without the fear.

    1. Noreen, What a kind way to put it. I always have to work on counter-acting fear with love… Thank you.

  8. Beautifully put! Congratulations on graduation. As I celebrate the graduation of my “baby” I have such a mix of emotions. How can it be that so much time has passed? Yet it has been so full of life. And this is what we’ve prepared our children for…leaving or is it going?

    1. Edalyparker, Well asked: it is ‘going,’ isn’t it? And then ultimately doesn’t the ‘going’ really end up being a ‘coming?’ Thanks!