The Sun Dome is opening up just in time to say goodbye to USF's newest graduates. But it's not really goodbye. It never is. (I'm not sure where this photo actually came from, but it was in @SenatorGiggity's Twitter feed and I really liked it, so here it is.)
Today's the tenth anniversary of my graduation day at USF. If you're walking across the stage in the newly-renovated Sun Dome this weekend, moving the tassel on your hat, and then tossing it into the air to celebrate, congratulations! You've accomplished something truly important and meaningful. No matter how old you are or how long it took you to get that degree, you should feel like the rest of your life is opened up in front of you, like a long corridor of doors with all kinds of great things and surprises behind any of them. Now you get to choose the one you want.
Just know that when you pass through whichever door you choose, USF will still be a part of you. You may or may not wear it on your sleeve like the five of us do, but it will always be in there. Quick story. A couple of weeks after I graduated, I interviewed for what became my first post-college job. At the time, USF and TCU were in the same conference, so there was some appeal in moving to Texas to keep watching the Bulls play. I mentioned that in the interview and the interviewer (who became my boss) told me that over time, that passion would fade away. Not only did it not fade away, it's become even stronger since then, and I was a student who got involved in activities, almost never missed football games, and once rode an all-night bus to Birmingham for a near-meaningless basketball game. I was a diehard and I still am.
But I'm not just a diehard about sports. It's almost a cliche that USF graduates come back to visit the campus after a few years away and immediately start babbling about how they don't recognize the place anymore. But it's true. The school you see now is much, much different than the one that Collin or Gary or I went to. More buildings, more activity, more possibilities, more energy. USF was still fighting the commuter-school stigma when I got there. Those days are over now. When I go back and it's harder and harder to park, and there are more buildings in the way, and there are tons of students running around at like 3:30 on a Friday afternoon, it excites me.
And look how the USF community rose up when J.D. Alexander decided to try and steal the Lakeland campus as his own personal legacy project. That was the most dedicated response to a non-sports situation I've seen at USF, maybe ever. It was so encouraging to see everyone rallying together for a common cause. You just never saw that kind of thing in my era, when most people's priorities were getting through their classes for the day and driving home.
Granted, sports are the most visible and recognizable way to be reminded of your connection to USF. You'll go to games in Tampa or somewhere else, or watch them on TV, or stream them online, and you'll feel happy when they succeed. There's also the more recent phenomenon of people seeing you in your USF gear and recognizing who they are. That only started happening a few years ago. (My favorite was when I went to Washington a few years ago and we visited the National Museum of American History, and the security guy asked me who was going to win the USF-Pittsburgh football game the next day as he was running the electronic wand over me to make sure I wouldn't blow the place up.) It's always fun when it happens.
But even if you don't follow sports, there will always be reasons for you to be proud of where you came from. USF will always be there with you. It never goes away.