On Graduating from UChicago, Decades Later Than Expected

A member of the Class of 2018 reflects over his decision to come back to the University to graduate.

By Chris Isidore

I couldn’t be more proud to be a member of the Class of 2018. And that goes far beyond the fact that I finally received my bachelor’s degree decades after my last class on the quads.

I was still trying to finish up a few incomplete classes, a consequence of me spending too many hours in the Maroon office and not enough in class or in the Reg, when I got my first newspaper job offer in 1983. I withdrew from the University figuring I could finish the work I needed to graduate in my spare time. Until recently, that never happened.

A year ago, I contacted the College to find out what I needed to do to finish the degree. With the generous help of Marianne West and the Dean of Students Office, I learned all I needed was to take one class at a college near where I live.

And thus, on June 9, I was sitting in the quad in my cap and gown, prepared to finally get my degree, feeling a combination of pride and embarrassment, the latter due to the length of time it had taken to reach that day.

I figured the ceremony wouldn’t be that big of a deal, certainly not an emotional experience, just like my decision to leave school without the degree. I was mistaken.

Since virtually none of the other graduates knew me, I assumed my name would be greeted with either silence or polite applause, beyond any support from my own family members and a couple of my former classmates who had joined them. I was fine with that.

Then my name was read, and the other graduates looked up and saw a guy with gray hair heading across the stage. A loud, long cheer went up from the crowd. I was literally shocked by the reaction.

Those in the crowd had no idea how close I came to dropping my diploma in surprise. Few saw the tears well up in my eyes.

After I sat back down for the final few moments of the ceremony, several other graduates turned and congratulated me. And after we marched out and as I was making my way back across the quad to meet up with my family, many people stopped me to shake my hand and congratulate me, including graduates and several parents who looked younger than I am.

It all reminded me of what I had forgotten: Even if I was far from the best student during my time at Chicago, even if I missed the chance to get everything out of the classes I should have, UChicago was a very good fit for me, and very important to who I am today.

During my time in Chicago, I learned not just from the classes I took, but also from my classmates. And this new generation of classmates taught me one last lesson about appreciating what I had accomplished in finally getting my degree.

So thank you, fellow members of the Class of 2018. You have no idea how much I appreciate your reaction; I will never forget you.

Chris Isidore is an alumnus of the Colege (A.B. '18) and a Maroon editor from 1981-1982.