The other thing that happened this week was graduation ceremonies. For reasons better left unexplored I managed to end up attending completely the wrong ceremony (i.e. not the one containing English graduates), so I found myself in with all the lawyers. Having no individual connection to any of the students at all left me free just to sit back and enjoy the proceedings in general, and in particular the honorary doctorate for Constance Briscoe, one of the UK’s very few black judges. The brief mention of Briscoe’s difficult childhood makes her ascent to the higher echelons of a notoriously elitist profession certainly notable. Briscoe has also courted controversy, writing two memoirs — Ugly and Beyond Ugly. They have been regarded by some as very much feeding the frenzy for ‘misery memoirs’, but had I been one of the legal students graduating last Wednesday, I would have found her presence at my graduation ceremony inspiring.
Wolverhampton-born Kevin Rowland, front-man of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, was due to be the honorary award at the ceremony I managed to miss. Unfortunately he was apparently ill and therefore wasn’t there. I had high hopes of a headline such as “Spontaneous 80s Dungaree Disco Breaks Out at Local Graduation” in the Express and Star… This may now have to wait until next year. Previous honorary degrees I recall include actress and author Meera Syal, and there is also very funny two-part clip of Frank Skinner receiving his award on Youtube.
To be honest I can’t remember any of my lecturers being at my various degree ceremonies. Some of them possibly were there for my BA English at Birmingham, but I certainly don’t recall anyone being at my MA or PhD ceremonies. It is, to perpetuate a cliché, a day for the students and their supporters, but in my experience at Wolverhampton it is also true that academic staff do take pride and pleasure in seeing students they have worked with and seen develop over three years getting their degrees. So I’m sorry I missed the ceremony I was meant to be at, but I still enjoyed the general ambience of happiness and celebration that was around all week. It is — and always will be — an achievement to gain a degree.