Processing at Degree Ceremonies – see what our volunteers had to say...
Milton Keynes – 10th and 11th September
These were two very special days for AOUG as we had the opportunity of our own stand on both days and thus Officers arrived at 7am to set up the display ready for the arrival of the excited graduates. The weather was kind to us on both days and therefore the graduates and their families were able to flow out of Milton Keynes Theatre onto the concourse. AOUG volunteers circulated both on the concourse and within the theatre reception area, congratulating the new graduates and chatting with them and their families. Each new graduate we spoke to was given our AOUG information pack to read later and hopefully encourage them to join us and whilst doing this we discovered many amazing stories about their study experiences.
All life's experiences were represented amongst these. We met the romantic couple, where the man was so rightly emotionally proud of his partner, the children taking numerous photos of Mum, and another mother being pushed in a wheelchair by her son. These two were graduating together, as were two young women from the same family, supported by another young family member, who herself had graduated from Lincoln the day before and who was still wearing her gown so that the three could celebrate this family triumph together.
Over the two days we spoke to over three hundred and fifty new graduates and heard so many wonderful stories, each one showing dedication and stamina to reach their goal and each one enjoying their day with family or friends who had supported them through their difficult times.
Along with our folders, we offered the help of giving directing to the location of gowns, photos or toilets, of reassuring the nervous, or listening to the over excited, of providing carrier bags to those juggling the various items of paperwork and the hit of the day – giving away our little yellow stress men. These were well received by children and grown-ups alike. We even had members of the procession party hiding these little men inside the sleeves of their gowns as they were about to enter the ceremony hall. This moment of frivolity shared together before the dignity of their procession into the auditorium. I just hope they all remembered to remove these little men before returning any hired gowns later! AOUG stand volunteers feet may have been throbbing at the end of each day but our hearts were uplifted to be part of this establishment that has given so many opportunities to so many people and we were truly proud to be one small part in these celebrations and we look forward to meeting many of these people again when they join our Association and start attending our events.
Jean Hertzog – AOUG Treasurer
One of our processors put his thoughts into blank verse:
What atmosphere there was
What sense of effort and reward
What calm and dignity among the colours
What purpose and what pride
How uplifting to be there on such a day
I will remember
The dignified silence of the procession
Symphony Hall in Birmingham – 14th June
I saw the day was made for me to 'rejoice and be glad in it'. This was exactly what happened. The joy of mingled pride and happy smiles among the graduates and their families and to see then capture themselves in photographs added gratitude to my heart for OU and AOUG. The music accompanied the procession stirred my heart to leap for joy and I was truly thankful for the opportunity to witness the ceremony to congratulate the graduates.
One thought to summarise the day was – OU is here to stay! There are now such a great crowd of witnesses everywhere. Let all the graduates throw off everything that hinders and entangles their past and let them from now on run with perseverance the opportunity OU has marked out for them and be the 'light in the world' around them wherever they are.
It was a joy and pleasure to represent AOUG at the Degree Ceremony. It was a privilege to share in the excitement of those graduating and the colour and spectacle of the Ceremony was most enjoyable.
I felt honoured to be asked by AOUG to take part I the procession at Ely Cathedral. It was beautiful setting and one which must help to make the Ceremony even more memorable. The day was fine and we arrived early to leave plenty of time for walking around the cathedral Gardens, the riverside the stalls at Palace Green and to enjoy the excited anticipatory atmosphere of the occasion. It was lovely to watch the graduates in their robes, happy and smiling, with proud families, equally happy, taking photographs. The Ceremony itself was a delight, a moving tribute to the hard work and efforts of the graduates and OU staff. Well done and thank you to The Open University!
I really enjoyed the Degree Ceremony at Ely on 31st May 2014. Seeing the excitement of the graduates and the proud faces of their friends and families brought back happy memories of my own graduation. I enjoyed processing with the other volunteers, the venue itself and meeting some of the graduates and was pleased to receive a lunch and a lovely afternoon tea after the service. A happy day in a beautiful location.
Waterfront Hall in Belfast - 17th May
The Alumni stand was big and 'upfront' but AOUG needs a separate stand to inform and publicise the purpose of the Association. Little information seemed to be available at the Waterfront Hall and this was at the bottom of the Alumni stand. The best part of the day was the actual atmosphere of the event.
I arrived in good time and the OU staff were very pleasant and very pleased to meet the AOUG representatives. All the people there were working together as a team and the procession went very smoothly. It was a jolly happy day for all.
Millennium Centre in Cardiff - 3rd May
I graduated in Cardiff myself sixteen years ago but this new venue was spectacular. The music of the harp was lovely and the Ceremony was inspiring but it was very difficult to sing in Welsh.
M. Boyd (See full write up in OMEGA Summer 2014)
Croke Park in Dublin – 12th April
This was the second time that I had processed for the AOUG in Ireland. The Degree Ceremony was held in Croke Park which is the home of our national games of Hurling and Gaelic Football and attendees at the Degree Ceremony had a glimpse of boy's Gaelic football being played as the All Ireland School Championships were in progress. The event provided an ideal opportunity to share the experience with graduates and their families along with projecting the ethos of AOUG by remaining involved with the OU, sharing activities and making new friends.
The support which Ramsey and Jean Hertzog have given to Ireland over the year has to be commended. This was continued through Ramsey's support in processing and Jean's excellent organisation of the AOUG stand where she was helped by Lesley Sleigh, our Vice-Chairman.
AOUG stand at Dublin Ceremony
This year the OU Office in Ireland invited AOUG to attend both the Dublin and Belfast Degree Ceremonies to host our own stands and once this was approved by the Director of Communications on campus, Lucian Hudson, we were able to accept the invitation to attend in Dublin. Unfortunately it was not possible to have a stand in Belfast as this was the same weekend as our AGM in St Albans which all our Officers are required to attend. This year's Dublin Ceremony was held at Croke Park, the Irish Football Stadium, and we had the added attraction of a schoolboys' final taking place on the pitch whilst the graduates circulated about in the VIP viewing areas.
Lesley Sleigh and Jean and Ramsey Hertzog were in attendance. with Mary Niblett joining Ramsey to process in the actual ceremony in the afternoon. AOUG had a great day meeting nearly all of the graduates and their families as they progressed around the corridors from robing to photographs, to Alumni and OUSA before arriving at AOUG on their way to the refreshments. All who passed our stand happily stopped to talk with us and more than a hundred of our specially prepared introductory folders were handed out. Time will tell if this leads to new members but the interest in our activities was certainly stimulated.
Dublin graduates hear poetic tribute from Sebastian Barry
"No barred gates, no troubling walls with glass shards on top, no buildings full of foreboding, no sunless facades – just the wide open prairies of the imagination…"
This extract is from one of the most poetic tributes The OU has ever received, given by Irish author Sebastian Barry in his speech to new graduates at the Dublin degree ceremony on 12 April. Both dazzling and moving, Barry's address envisioned The OU as a force for liberating the power of the imagination and accessing human knowledge. He congratulated the graduates on enduring "the fear and the work" and emerging into triumph.
"You heard the call of the elephants and lions of the imagination and you have run away with the circus of the Open University," he said, "whose fable beasts and high-wire acts are in the very aether, in the postal service and on the mysterious internet."
Sebastian is a playright, novelist and poet, born in Dublin. He attended the ceremony at Dublin's Croke Park to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of the University. You can watch his speech being delivered at the ceremony here.
The Dome in Brighton – 5th April
The Brighton Ceremony this year was a celebration of people wishing to better themselves in life through higher education. I was particularly pleased to note the proportion of ethnic minorities being presented seemed higher than I recall at my own graduation, and some of the higher degrees were very impressive.
The arrangements made were much the same as usual and I was escorted to the refreshment room by OU staff who were very pleasant and friendly. Robing was in the hands of Ede and Ravenscroft who, as usual, were most polite and efficient. The highlights were obviously the presentation of the graduates. They must all have worked so hard to obtain their degrees, especially those who had been awarded 'Masters'.
It was good to applaud other graduates receiving their degrees after years of hard work, just as I had received the same applause when I received my degree back in 2000. The most popular area for graduates seemed to be the photography but my highlight was being invited to the VIP meal with others of the procession after the Ceremony and the opportunity to talk with OU academic staff.LONDON
Barbican in London – 28th and 29th March
I was surprised when I was phoned and asked if I would like to take part in the procession. I hesitated before accepting the invitation because I knew I would be returning to the UK just 36 hours before the Ceremony and I thought IO might not be able to stay awake after a long flight. However I am so pleased that I did accept. It was such an interesting experience that the jet last stayed at bay until I got home. The view of the Barbican auditorium from the stage was amazing and I really felt privileged to be there in such august company.
Hundreds of graduates and their families arrive in anticipation of finally receiving the recognition of their degrees and so unusual to see so many representatives from the armed services for whom the OU now apparently provides courses in mechanical engineering.
Everyone was so helpful and plenty of people to around to assist if you got lost. I remember when I got my OU MA – we had photos with the presenter but we didn't get champagne!
I've attended quite a lot of Degree Ceremonies over the years and I especially enjoy being at the Barbican on a good weather day and the watch to see all the families posing for photos around the fountains outside. Reactions in the Ceremony vary according to the personalities of the graduates. I've seen those who rush across hardly stopping top shake hands, those who wave to their families and those who want to stop to chat but this was the first time I've seen a new graduate take a 'selfie with the Vice-Chancellor on stage!!