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‘Et Super Te’: the Author Graduates

27 June, 2010

Reader, I graduated.

The Author apologises for another extended absence, but wishes you forgive her under the consideration that the past week has been cluttered with graduation festivities.  In Honour of the culmination of the Author’s academic career, she would like to celebrate the curious ways of her Alma Mater, the University of St Andrews.

Let us begin at the end: the graduation ceremony.

Befitting an ancient University, the ceremony was predominantly conducted in Latin, with more Pomp than any American University could aspire to.

As a Graduand, the Author faced a daunting task of a more complicated and involved ceremony than she had ever encountered or heard of.  This was no simple handshake and being handed a diploma, but a multi-step procedure involving a silk-lined hood, a head capping, a Janitor, reverent bowing and other such fun.

The Author graduated with the School of English in the very first ceremony of the week, so the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor were at their peak performance, not yet weary of reciting the same Latin phrases and repeated the same movement.  The Author, however, was uncertain of exactly what she was expected to do in the ceremony, and had no earlier Graduates to consult.

Luckily, the Author was able to watch the first few scores of students and learn by example.  Moment before walking onto the stage, with the assistance of Professional Gown Dressers, the Author draped her hood on her left arm, holding the collar end in her right hand.  Waiting for her name to be announced, the Author waited at the corner of the stage, giving her family a sidelong smile.  Her name announced, the Author strode to the middle of the stage and proffered her cherry silk lined hood to the Janitor.  Yes, the Janitor.

When the Author first received her Graduation instructions, she could not but imagine a surly fellow in a grey jumpsuit uniform holding a mop, but no, in typical St Andrews fashion, the word ‘Janitor’ is taken from it most archaic definition, and this Janitor was finely dressed and had been one of the bearers of the Medieval Maces at the start of the ceremony.  With the assistance of a well-placed bar, the Author tottered to her knees (in a pencil skirt and heels, mind you) and bowed to the Vice-Chancellor at the podium.    The Vice-Chancellor repeated, for the 72nd time, ‘et super te’ and capped the Author’s hand with, some say, the breeches of Mr. John Knox.  I would have happily believed this tale, if only the Vice-Chancellor hadn’t debunked the myth in her opening speech.  Following the honorary head tap, the Janitor slipped the hood over the Author’s head, immediately after which it slipped back, choking the Author.  After a reverent bow to the Vice-Chancellor, which was promptly returned, the Author walked across and off the stage.  Moments later, she emerged from the adjoining anteroom with diploma in hand, happily evolved from a Graduand to a Graduate.

The ceremony culminated in the Graduates joining the academic procession out of Younger Hall, down North Street and into the St. Salvator’s Quadrangle, where the Graduates were free to disperse and take the obligatory 55 or so photographs.

The Author hopes she hasn’t bored her Readers with this hefty block of text, with but one accompanying photograph.  She rather loves this beautiful University, with its curious and numerous Traditions, and will take her time to celebrate them.  The University of St Andrews is a splendid place to cultivate One’s Curiosity and fine tune One’s Observations (although not always One’s Diligence).

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 27 June, 2010 9:50 pm

    Huzzah! Gaudeamus igitur! Been there, done that meself (wrinkles nose at memory of those Calvinist breeks on head) and it is, indeed, worthy of celebration in words and spirit.

    Wishing you a well earned holiday and a happy glow.

  2. 29 June, 2010 12:13 am

    Many thanks! Ah, but if only I did have a holiday after those four vigorous years of Academia (not counting the Reading Weeks, Christmas, Easter and post-Exam breaks). I have a mere week before I join the Working World in London. I hope to be able to keep up with posts when I have more than 4 hours of tutorials a week to occupy me!

  3. John permalink
    8 July, 2010 6:18 pm

    What a great description! What is the most archaic definition of the word “janitor”?

  4. Charlotte Lancaster permalink
    18 August, 2010 2:41 pm

    For some reason I am now able to access the Diligent Observer from my regular e-mail site, thanks to Clarissa Whitehorn’s e-mail today and the subsequent reference to that other site ( which I now forget)which sent me to this. What a delightful and accurate description of that memorable day!

  5. 26 February, 2011 4:57 am

    Your blog has been selected for my new recommended blog list please visit the site for more info.

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