My daughter, Sophia Renee Anderson, is officially graduating from college, after attending Pepperdine University’s commencement ceremony for Seaver College of Letters, Arts and Sciences on April 30, a sunny day in Malibu. We sent a contingent of a few dozen relatives and friends to the ceremony, thanks to the organizational and social skills of my wife, Camille. I just introduced myself. Since the ceremony lasted about four hours, I had time to meditate on the mysteries of life.
I have read the initiation program.
The vision statement, or as George HW Bush might have said, “the vision thing,” was very inspiring. Among other things, Pepperdine graduates are, “. . . strengthened for lives of purpose, service and leadership. We were overwhelmed with pride when our daughter earned both a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Whereas in decades past students sometimes earned a double major, today it is possible, with extraordinary effort, to earn two separate university degrees. For example, I have seen in the program students who have completed a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and one in Performing Arts (Technical).
Another new thing for me was the emergence of long explanatory names for majors. For example, instead of majoring in “music”, a degree would be listed as “Bachelor of Arts in Music (Applied Music)” or “Theater and Music”, not to be confused with “Theatre Arts (Acting)” . I guess specializing in “drama” is something out of the dark ages. For master’s degrees, titles included “Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Screen and Television.” Seeing the word “television” is quite unexpected for me, as an academic field. On the other hand, times are changing and the academic environment is evolving.
Some of the bachelor’s degrees were traditional and succinct: biology, English, German, finance, chemistry, journalism, mathematics and physics. A Bachelor of Arts in “Sustainability” has staked out new academic territory. I also noted that a person could earn either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Biology, which I consider a science. For those with varied interests, a “Bachelor of Arts in Natural Science” was available. Does “integrated marketing communication” derive from “business” or from “advertising?” The “Bachelor of Arts in Sports Medicine” also caught my eye. Does this degree reflect something new on the horizon? Teams used to have “coaches”, for sprains and other injuries, by historical comparison.
Minji Kim, a physics student, nailed her student talk with a presentation linking the trajectory of human life to wave motion. Pepperdine is home to the Waves, as a student mascot. The promotion and salvation students, both stellar scholars, accepted awards but didn’t give any speeches, which rather surprised me.
The keynote was delivered by Sam Schmidt of Conquer Paralysis Now, who also received an honorary doctorate. Not only was Schmidt paralyzed from the neck down due to a 200mph race car crash, but his father is said to have suffered a similar fate as well. My son Luke, who is 18, is captivated by motorcycles, even if he does not ride. A student at Georgetown University, Luke is completing training as an emergency medical technician. If successful, he will see traumatic injuries every day. Similar experiences have dramatically changed my personal perspective of risk tolerance.
We partied at Nicolas’s Eatery on the Pacific Coast Highway. I choked on a toast remembering that Pia was born with a fractured left collarbone and a paralyzed arm. She fully recovered, becoming a varsity swim captain. Her mother barely missed an event, providing transportation, nutrition – and academic supervision and love. It seems natural that Mother’s Day and graduation fall next to each other, like annual springtime events. Happy Mother’s Day, and congratulations to graduates everywhere.
Dr. Scott T. Anderson ([email protected]) is a clinical professor at the University of California Davis Medical School. This column is informative and does not constitute medical advice.