‘Tis the season for graduations of all kinds and in all places! As graduation season approached, I remembered something that Mom had said to me earlier in the year.
“Hunny, we want to give you doctoral regalia for your graduation,” Mom told me when I completed my PhD. There was no urgency amidst the pandemic and no graduation ceremonies.
As the ceremonies began again, Mom continued to use her regalia for the various commencement addresses she gave as she served on the South Dakota Board of Regents (BOR).
When she offered to gift me regalia again, we knew that she would be stepping down from the BOR.
“Mom, you know what I would really love, if you are not going to be using then anymore? I’d love to wear your regalia.”
The next thing I knew the original box and receipt (only my mom) arrived.
As I lifted the regalia out of the box, I thought of the history, memories, and roots enfolded within and threaded throughout. “My regalia was a gift to myself, ” Mom told me. “I didn’t walk for graduation for either of my Master’s at the University of Arizona (not counting the one that she walked away from in Wyoming), nor for my PhD at Texas A&M. I didn’t buy them for my first several years as a professor. I wore what the university loaned to us. It wasn’t until I achieved tenure that I allowed myself. When I bought the regalia, they meant so much to me. They were my gift to myself.”
Interwoven within these threads are years and years of teaching full-time and parenting, while completing two (three with the Wyoming) Master’s and a PhD on ranches and in towns in several states. When I unzipped the garment bag to feel the fabric, it wasn’t just cloth that I felt. I felt the years of Mom’s growing up where education for women, much less a PhD, was so far down on the spectrum of priorities that it barely registered. These threads were woven from Mom’s coursework done at the kitchen table or tiny counter desk in the early morning or late evening hours while teaching, parenting, and ranching.
The cobalt blue of the doctoral stripes signify a PhD. I think of the cobalt blue of tiles of our kitchen on the Cascabel ranch in Arizona. Tiles from Mexico of cobalt blue and canary yellow created the counters and backdrop under the cupboards throughout our kitchen. It was simply stunning. Memories of that time make this color combination one of my favorites to this day. Wearing these colors represent not only a PhD for me, but also the memories of my childhood on that ranch, in that kitchen. I added texture to these threads through my own PhD and life journey, again so interwoven with working full-time, parenting, and the ranch.
I brought the regalia to Santa Fe Community College graduation hanging in the back of our pickup. Not the first time these have arrived to the ceremony in the back of a pickup! It felt only right.
Unos mariachis led all out after the ceremony’s completion.
Outside, we gathered with graduates of our Spanish-language Early Childhood program, whose extraordinary life stories never cease to leave me humbled and inspired.
The threads of this regalia now hold the incredible stories of women and men who came to the United States from throughout Latin America to create better lives for themselves and their families. Graduates from Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and many more Latin American countries walked the stage. Karina Tovar worked for years in our custodial staff, before entering the program to receive her degree for her career as a bilingual teacher. The message on her mortar board says it all:
Por mi familia
For my family
Woven into every stitch.
May 18, 2023 at 11:26 am
Dear Dawn. This is beautiful.
May 18, 2023 at 1:46 am
Dearest Dawn, Your Mom is amazing; you’re following competently in her footsteps so you must be amazing too! I love the serape stole Karina is wearing. The stitching’s you’re wearing are most impressive. Love and hugs, Dan
May 17, 2023 at 3:29 pm
Good Morning Dawn,Hope this messages finds you doing well on all fronts. I enjoyed this message very much. Certainly miss being part of a graduation ceremony for sure. To be part of the celebration for students who have reached a life changing milestone, is one that all educators should savor. Thanks as always for sharing your journey.Kathleen
May 17, 2023 at 1:25 pm
Such beauty in all these threads that trace your academic family tree – congratulations again! PS: I love the SFCC turquoise robes!
May 17, 2023 at 12:53 pm
Stunning story Dawn…..
Sent from my iPhone
May 17, 2023 at 5:59 am
Dawn, a bit more of the yellow, and it reminds me of the Ukrainian flag – for peace in the world where knowledge is a part of it. Love, Tove
May 17, 2023 at 1:02 am
I have chills reading this. How very proud you and your mother should be Dawn. What achievements!
May 17, 2023 at 12:47 am
What a wonderful story, Dawn! Compliments to you and your Mom on your accomplishments!
May 17, 2023 at 12:22 am
Beautifully written, Dawn. My love to both of you for accomplishing so much. 🥰