Graduation is a few days away. The weather is looking iffy for Friday, but the forecast changes daily. I’ve compiled a few tips for parents as they head to Charleston for this huge milestone celebration.
Be sure you have your camera battery charged up. Bring extra memory cards/batteries.
Be prepared for rain with an umbrella and water repellant jacket or coat. Wear rain boots if you have them since it gets muddy with the rain.
Remember if it rains it WILL NOT dampen the spirits of the graduates (it poured for my son’s long gray line. We all had a blast.)
When taking photos have one person in your party take a photo from one end of Summerall Field to get a good shot of the grads the complete length of the field.
The graduates go from being thrilled to be graduating to realizing that after Saturday the friends that have become family will be spread throughout the country and the globe. It helps to understand that their emotions can be all over the place this week.
Before graduation on Saturday ask your senior where they will be sitting in relationship to the front dais (stage). They line up in alpha order, not by company, for graduation.
Decide where you will meet after graduation BEFORE graduation. Some meet on the floor of the field house other prefer to meet up outside. Some want to get photos with their friends at a specific place. Having a short conversation ahead of time can expedite the meet up after graduation is over.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know the parents of 2017 and hope to see many of you Friday and Saturday.
Each year in February the questions from a variety of parents pick up. The senior parents are looking toward graduation and commissioning. I’ve added a few notes about the end of the year below.
Keep an eye out for the updated graduation schedule. I checked this morning and the 2016 schedule of events is still posted. You can use that schedule as a guideline for this year but watch for updates. A few general notes:
Tickets are limited. For the past several years each cadet gets 8 tickets. They can put their name in a lottery for extras but that is not guaranteed. Sometimes they can get a few from classmates who won’t use their allotment.
Since tickets are limited to graduation some families rent a house and have the graduation live stream connected to a large screen TV for the guests who can’t be at the event.
It is traditional to send out announcements for college graduation. Again traditionally announcements are sent to anyone who would want to know about this big life event. They are sent out the week of or after graduation. The recipient is not obligated to send a gift when they receive an announcement. It is a good time to announce the commissioning of a graduate who is entering the armed forces. You can also put a card with the new contact information for the graduate since they will no longer use the school’s address to receive mail. These small cards are referred to as “at home” cards to indicate the graduate will be at their new home after a certain date. The tradition of an at home card is an old one and has changed over time as to the meaning. You can read the history here.
Many families use the online announcement company Signature. They are nice quality, but a better price than what Balfour offers.
Commissioning services happen the Friday before graduation. Be in touch with your senior for the updated details on the ceremony. It is traditional for the newly commissioned second lieutenant to give the person who renders their first salute a silver dollar. You can usually find them online.
For those commissioning they will have to order and pay for their dress uniform. That process is usually started by now. The expense surprises many parents.
The seniors have to be out of the barracks by Thursday night of graduation week, unless they’ve requested and received an exception. Be sure you plan for this when making your accommodation reservations.
Like most big weekends, graduation weekend is a time of great activity. Dress for the weather and for comfort in walking. If the weather is warm many ladies wear light dresses for the commissioning service and long gray line parade. The gentleman wear jacket and tie for the commissioning and more casual attire for the afternoon parade. For graduation, business attire is appropriate, a dress or nice slacks for the ladies and jacket and tie for the gentleman.
Saturday morning arrive at the field house for graduation early to find a seat. In 2011 we were given assigned seats. The past several years it is open seating. Saving seats is discouraged. If you have young children attending, bring quiet distractions for them like coloring books and light snacks. The ceremony lasts about 3 – 3 1/2 hours. I played The Citadel version of “Where’s Waldo” with my daughter who was in 6th grade at the time her brother graduated. We had a list of my son’s friends and she tried to find them as they sat waiting for their name to be called.
Have a plan of where you are to meet after the ceremony. Some families meet on the floor of the field house some meet outside the building. It is helpful to have a plan ahead of time.
Each year about this time I receive an interesting mix of questions. Families of seniors write with graduation questions. Sophomore and junior parents have fewer questions but the ones they do have revolve around either the BVA process for junior year or early questions about Ring Weekend for rising seniors. The knob families are gearing up for Recognition Day, and the parents of high school seniors have matriculation Day questions.
The graduation schedule is posted on the school web site and should answer most of your questions. You only get 8 tickets per family. some large families set up a computer/TV combination in a rental home so the people who are not at graduation can see the live stream.
The school posts a link to the Balfour graduation announcements. They did not have the site updated early enough for many families so many have used a different company that offer better prices and plenty of options: Signature Announcements
I refer parents to the link to Emily Post Graduation Etiquette for an explanation about the difference between announcements and an invitation. Since the tickets are limited it is customary to send announcements a day to 2 weeks after the graduation to let friends and family know of the milestone reached by your graduate.
On graduation day be sure to ask your graduate where they want to meet you when the ceremony is over. The place is packed and if you have a designated place to meet it can cut down on the time it takes to find your grad is a sea of people.
For more tips and photos just enter Graduation in the search window of this blog page. Here is the post I wrote after graduation last year: Graduation for the Class of 2015
The biggest question that I’m asked is about the ring payment.The Citadel Alumni Association will send a bill in late August once the registrar lets them know who is qualified to receive their rings in October. Hopefully you or your cadet have been saving up. The cost of the ring has been in the $1,000 range the past several years. The payment is due before Ring Weekend.
It is customary for the cadet to escort their mother through the giant replica of the ring the Friday evening of Ring Weekend. The schedule of when each company goes through the ring is posted early in the new school year by the cadet activities office.
There isn’t much parents need to know before junior year. If your son has plans to become a Bond Volunteer Aspirant, you can expect them to spend a good part of their summer physically preparing. I’ve posted several entries about the process you might find helpful.
It won’t be long until your son or daughter will cease being a knob and become a regular 4th Class cadet. Recognition Day is coming up. If you attend, remember it is not a day to interact with your cadet. If you go, watch from the sidelines, take photos and be in awe of how they have grown as a class in one short academic year. This year I am looking forward to being on campus and joining some 2019 families for lunch that day.
A heads up about sophomore year: It is a different type of tough.They aren’t knobs but if they have rank they are the lowest ranking officers. Many refer to it as knobmore year because it doesn’t seem a whole lot different than the year before. Parents like to call it knob-no-more, but I’m told by many cadets and grads that knobmore is a better description.
A few words of caution. . . It is a year when they do get a little bit a power. It can be a time when they will run into the discipline system a bit more. Grades can slip sophomore year because they don’t have anyone telling them what to do like they did the year before.
Families of high school seniors:
Congratulations! You are about to embark on quite a rollercoaster ride called Knob Year. Please join the Facebook group called, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020. Please send me an email to let me know you are the parent of an incoming knob. The group is only for parents of knobs, not extended family. You’ll meet other parents who will become your friends. A few parents of grads are in the group to help answer questions. We have a variety of different backgrounds.The Citadel Family Association also has a Facebook group you can join. The Area Reps are parents throughout the country who volunteer to be a support to knew parents. Once you know your son or daughters company (on Matriculation Day) you will have a CFA parent volunteer you can also contact for help and support.
I had the honor of attending the graduation of the Class of 2015 last weekend. A young man I’ve known since before his Matriculation Day, Sadarius Lucas, invited me to be there for his big day. I arrived early in the afternoon Thursday before the Saturday graduation. It was fun to see cadets and families in the bookstore and on campus getting ready for the big weekend.
Friday morning I took my time getting to campus but had the opportunity to watch as the newly commissioned officers in the Air Force, Navy and Marines were rendered their first salute. While standing outside Summerall Chapel I was thrilled to see my long time friend, Gwen and her extended family. I wrote about Gwen a while back. We went to the same high school in New Jersey and ran around with the same friend group. When Gwen’s oldest was a knob she found my name in the Citadel Family Association list of volunteer and emailed. We picked up right where we left off 30 years before. It is just one story of many of the friendships that have been renewed between the parents of cadets. I say it often, I never expected that I would end up with so many new friends because my son chose to attend The Citadel. In this case it was a true gift to reconnect with Gwen.
I had the opportunity to finally meet a few people in the administration that I had not met before. We were all outside the chapel at the same time. I was floored to find out they all were familiar with this blog and also that I administer Facebook groups for parents of cadets, but not as surprised as I would be the next day after graduation.
As the afternoon went on the weather was looking pretty iffy. Rain was in the forecast. The Summerall Guards began their performance and got through the entire series before the rain began. I noticed that the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Mr. Bob McDonald was sitting next to President and Mrs. Rosa. I had met him briefly after a Town Hall meeting he held at the Atlanta VA in the fall. I went over to say hello. He continues to impress me with the work he is doing for our veterans. Right after he introduced me to his wife and his sister, who is the mother of a 2015 graduate, the rain began. Out of no where secret service men appeared with large black umbrellas. I’ve decided having “people” in the midst of a rain storm is a very nice perk.
I scooted to my car to wait out the rain. Fortunately after a 30 minute delay the rain died down and the final parade of the year, the Long Gray Line began. If you are ever in Charleston on the Friday before graduation, you owe it to yourself to be on campus for this parade. The rising cadet officers take their command and then the senior cadets leave their companies and stand shoulder to shoulder the length of the parade field to form a long gray line. At the designated time they march forward to the families and friends at the other side of the field and away from the Corps of Cadets. The seniors are grinning ear to ear as they march forward. They turn around and as their companies pass them on their way off the field they give a final salute. It is a very moving experience just to watch. You can catch a glimpse of the long gray line parade and the other events of the weekend in this video produced by the school.
Saturday, the BIG day, began early. Seating is first come first served so we arrived at 7:30 am to secure decent seats close to the podium and not too high up. It turned out we were only three rows behind Cadet Lucas. The commencement speaker, Keller Kissam, did an outstanding job of delivering an inspirational address to the Class of 2015. Take the time to listen to his address. You’ll be glad you took the time.
A highlight of graduation at a military college or academy is the final announcement by the president, Class of 2015 Dismissed! last Saturday we were not disappointed. The white covers were high in the air and the graduates were busy hugging and shaking hands. They were all heading out to points around the globe. Some will meet while deployed others may run into each other while doing business. After tolerating quite a few photos Sadarius and his mom and friend were off to Columbia, SC because he had to get to a 3:00 job interview! He is such a gifted young man I expect to see wonderful things from him in the years to come.
My final gift came as I was walking to my car near Mark Clark Hall. A golf cart approached and driving it was Captain Geno Paluso, commandant of the Corps of Cadets. He stopped his cart and said hello to me by name. We only met once before, briefly last fall at a football game. He went on to thank me for the help I provide to parents of cadets. I was floored that he knew my name. I was shocked to find out he knew that I do any type of volunteer work with parents. He ended up giving me a ride to my car. I like to tell folks he was my chauffeur for the afternoon. Fortunately a friend was right there to take a photo.
I made one last stop at the boat house and the dock before leaving campus to head to Savannah to see my oldest son. It was a wonderful weekend. I am now very busy screening the requests to join the Facebook group for parents of the Class of 2019. If you know someone with a student who will be a knob this fall, please pass along this link. And please ask them to email me for message me to confirm they are a parent of an incoming knob. My email address is in the “About Dorie” section of this blog.
Graduation for The Citadel, Class of 2015 is just a few months away. The questions about graduation week are picking up on the Facebook groups and in my private inbox. Most of the questions parents have including the schedule, ticket information, etc., can be answered on the Commencement 2015 page of the school website.
A few important tips follow:
If you haven’t done so already secure your hotel or lodging accommodations ASAP.
The seniors have to be out of the barracks before Friday. Check with your cadet about their plans to move out.
Events for graduating seniors begin Thursday before the Saturday graduation. See the Schedule of Events prior to arrival to plan your trip.
For Legacy graduates, Commissioning cadets and cadets who receive Lifetime Memberships to the Citadel Alumni Association, see the Special Events For Selected Groups schedule for important information.
Some cadet companies have parties planned for graduation weekend. Check with your cadet and their friends to see if something is already planned. Some families rent beach houses and host a gathering too.
The cadets who will commission into a branch of the military traditionally give a silver dollar to the person who renders their first salute. You can find helpful information about that tradition on several web sites. Marlow White: The First Salute – the Silver Dollar Tradition, A site that sells coins for the first salute: First Salute You can also find them on Amazon.com and coin dealers.
In the next several months the commissioning seniors will also have to purchase their dress uniforms. My son handled this on his own. I’m sure if your cadet has questions they can get information from their ROTC office on campus.
The commissioning service for the Army is usually the largest group and they start off early Friday morning. Be sure to arrive up to an hour before the scheduled start time to get a seat. The chapel fills up early. The cadet and the two people who will pin their bars on sit in a designated area, the other guests sit behind the commissioning cadets. The services for Navy, Marine and Air Force cadets are not as crowded.
In less than two weeks the class of 2017 will go through Recognition Day. In 40 days the class of 2014 will join the long gray line of graduates. The parent Facebook groups are lighting up with posts related to these two huge events in the life of a Citadel cadet.
I get the most questions from parents of freshman and seniors each year. The first year parents are entering a year full of foreign words and rituals. The senior parents are excited about Ring Weekend then graduation. Sophomore and junior year are just not that busy for parents. The cadets slowly become more like other college students. On their time off they aren’t as focused on spending time with family. They begin to develop a social life in Charleston and spend their time off with their buddies.
Sophomore year is referred to as knobmore year for a good reason. They are no longer knobs, but they are the lowest officers in the cadet chain of command, or have no real status among the upperclass cadets. It can be a tough year for many. I have even heard cadets say that they miss knob year when they didn’t have to think about how to order their day. It was done for them that first year. I don’t believe any cadet would really want to go through another knob year. The best thing to do this year is keep your grades up.
Junior year the cadet officers are carrying higher rank and responsibilities. Over 100 juniors each year decide to be Bond Volunteer Aspirants (BVA’s) in the hope of being a member of the Summerall Guards. That process is all-consuming. Parents of BVA’s should expect them to be busy most of the time with either school work, officer duties or BVA duties. Let them contact you. If you don’t hear from them in a while, just know they really are that busy.
Juniors in general, BVA or not, are busy. They are fully into their college years. The social life continues to pick up. For many of the Army ROTC cadets they are preparing to attend the Leader Development and Assessment Course held in the summer. Cadets who will enter the various military branches participate in summer programs. The non-military cadets are looking for internships in the field they hope to work win when the graduate.
Since we are toward the end of the year I’ll mention a few end of year tips for each class:
For the 4th Class cadets two questions I get each year at this time is, What type of gift should I get my cadet? and Do they really have to be out of the barracks before 7 am on graduation day?
The answer to the first question is, a gift is not necessary, but is always appreciated. A company T-Shirt from the bookstore is the most welcomed gift as it is a sign they are a full member of the Corps of Cadets. Any gift reflecting their status as a full member of the Corps of Cadets is welcomed.
The answer to the graduation day question is, yes, unless your cadet has duties at graduation, they have to be out of the barracks by 7 am graduation morning. The Corps of Cadets marches in the Long Gray Line parade Friday afternoon. After the parade they turn in their dress gray uniform and get their rooms cleaned up. If your cadet can’t leave before 7 am, they have to wait with their things on the quad of the barracks. Most cadets will find a local family to go to if they have a late flight out that day. Parents, if you can, try to arrive early Friday afternoon to see the Long Gray Line parade.
For many sophomores cadets it is the last summer they will have where they aren’t focused on post graduation activities. Making, and saving, money is the primary focus. Of course each cadet is different. Some end up taking advantage of the summer abroad programs or other school related offerings.
This year LDAC will be held at Ft. Knox instead of Joint Base Lewis McChord. Much of the information online has not been updated to reflect the new location. The Ft. Knox Public Affairs Office has confirmed that they will post a LDAC 2014 Facebook group sometime in May. They will also post to the WarriorForge blog site in May. The WarriorForge Twitter account has not been updated since August of 2013, but I assume that, too, will start-up again in May. Family members can check these sites once they are active for updates and information on various aspects of LDAC. I did find a Reddit thread about LDAC 2014 too.
Each branch of the service has their own process. My son was Army so I do not have first hand experience with the other branches and their requirements.
For the Class of 2014 and your parents, Congratulations!!
My son was a senior your knob year. I was on campus for your Matriculation Day in 2010. The time has just flown by. Parents be sure to take lots of photos and video of the weekend.
The cycle for next year has already started. The Facebook group for the Parents of the Class of 2018 has over 70 members already. If you are the parent of a soon to be knob be sure to send me an email to request to join the group. My email address is located in the “About Dorie” section of this blog.
Each year about this time the search terms for gifts for cadets increase. Parents, family and friends of cadets are usually looking for ideas for graduates, but also to celebrate the end of knob year at Recognition Day.
My top recommendation for newly recognized knobs is a company t-shirt and car decal. You can purchase them at the Citadel Bookstore. They aren’t expecting a gift, but one of the first things former knobs do after Recognition Day is head to the bookstore to get a company t-shirt.
I’ve seen some very creative gifts this year. Parents, mostly moms, are very resourceful. One 2016 mom sent me photos of a picture she had painted by a friend. Dawn Allen works off of photos, magazines, or any kind of images you want to send. Tell her what you want and she will design a comp. Price depends on size, detail, and if lettering is involved. Anything is negotiable. Contact her at: Rmichaelallen@bellsouth.net
Photos of their time at The Citadel are always appreciated. I gave the 2011 graduates of Bravo Company two photos for graduation. One was a group photo from their knob year taken on Corps Day. The second photo was a group shot taken in front of the company letter on Ring Weekend.
If you have a great gift idea you’d like to share, please add it to the comment section of this entry.
It may only be January, but it is time to plan for graduation in May. It may even be a little late to start if you plan on renting a home for the week. Links to hotel information and other places to stay are in this previous post. It is always a good idea to call the area hotels directly and ask if they offer a special rate for Citadel families.
As every other cadet event, the cadets have practice during the days for all the events from the commissioning ceremonies for military contract graduates, to the long grey line, legacies, and commencement. Their evenings are free.
A friend gave me a heads up about graduation week. While we all want to spend time with our soon to be graduate, it hits the seniors sometime leading up to graduation that they will no longer be able to see their buddies by walking out of their room in the barracks. They try to get as much time with their friends as possible before they spread across the globe in their various new roles.
Some families get together with others and host parties for companies. Others have small family gatherings. It is totally up to the individual families. I wrote about the little things i did graduation week to say thank you to various people on campus that I came to call friends.
If you are just getting started on your plans, a place to stay should be at the top of your list. Meal planning is next, especially if you will have a large group dining out. For help in finding facilities the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau is a great resource. The area hotels have restaurants and meeting facilities, but they can also offer suggestions.
The attire for the baccalaureate ceremony, commissioning ceremony, the parade and garden party is listed as casual, but many families dress a little nicer than just casual. Of course you need to dress for the weather too. In 2011 it rained for the Friday afternoon long grey line parade. We ended up so soaked we skipped the reception at the President’s home. In all the photos I’ve seen from other years the ladies wear light sun dresses, nice slacks and similar outfits. For the commissioning ceremony many wear jacket and tie as would match the attire the new officers will be wearing. Most people don’t have the time to change between events so they wear something comfortable, but nice for all the events.
You will want to plan on dinner Friday, and a late lunch Saturday after graduation. Dinner Saturday night is another opportunity to plan a gathering. The recent graduates may also have various parties they will want to visit. Like everything else over the four years, the events outside of the planned school functions, will vary with each graduate. A good resource, in addition to the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, for restaurants is Zagat’s.
Gifts ideas for graduates are infinite. Some families give gifts to their cadet’s friends. Some knobs families give senior mentors gifts. It is totally up to the individual as to what you give or if you give a gift. A nice card is always appropriate. The Citadel Alumni Association also has some nice gifts available through their site.
The Citadel Bookstore sells diploma frames. Blazer buttons, and various jewelry items are also a nice gift.
A nice gift for a graduate to give their mother is the special miniature Citadel ring or pendant. It is pricey so they may need help from dad to purchase it for their mom.
I’ll include a few links below to previous posts that include other gift ideas and links.
The cadets spend four years waiting to graduate, then spend the rest of their lives trying to get back. Enjoy the week of events and take lots of photos!
If you would like to get together with other families in your cadets family and hire a photographer, I happen to be married to a very good one, Stanley Leary. You can see some of his Citadel photos here. Of course there are others in the area too.
Thanksgiving furlough at The Citadel is still a week away, so it may seem a bit early to post about the last week of the school year. As parents of upperclassmen know, the hotel rooms and rental homes book up quickly that week. Graduation is May 10, 2014. The College of Charleston also has their graduation the same week.
Make your hotel reservations early.
For parents of the Class of 2017 you need to pay attention to this advice too since freshman – junior cadets stay on campus until graduation day.
The undergraduate cadets who do not have prior approval to leave early, stay in the barracks until 7:00 AM at the latest the day of graduation. Some cadets have duties graduation day and have to stay longer. Your cadet will have to let you know if they have a duty, but they won’t know until closer to May. Cadets with parents who arrive Friday can load some of their belongings Friday.
If you arrive by 2:00 in the afternoon you will be able to see the 2015 Summerall Guards perform and then watch the Long Gray Line parade.
I am mentioning this now because last year quite a few parents were surprised about this schedule.
For parents of graduating seniors:
The seniors move out of the barracks before Friday so they need a place to stay Wednesday – Friday nights.
The events for graduation begin the Thursday before graduation. The school has posted a planning sheet and a schedule of events for graduation. The more extended information page for 2014 is not posted yet. You can read through the page still available from May 2013 to get an idea of what to expect. In our case my son did not participate it eh THursday Award ceremony and did not want to attend the baccalaureate service.
Friday: Friday is the day the military commissioning services take place. TheArmy commissioning service is usually the largest group and they go first. You’ll need to get to the chapel early Friday morning to find a seat. Two people can pin the bars onto the shoulder of the newly commissioned officer. They sit with the graduating senior. All others sit behind the seniors.
A note about commissioning: It is customary for the new officer to receive their first salute to an NCO or enlisted soldier. In turn the new officer gives a silver dollar to the the person who rendered the salute. Finding a silver dollar can be tricky for some.
The Citadel Alumni Association hosts a nice gathering at lunchtime Friday for the graduates who are new Lifetime members of the CAA. The Lifetime membership makes a great graduation gift. Up to 4 people, including the graduate can attend this luncheon.
There are special events for legacy graduates and their families.
The 2015 Summerall Guards will perform in the afternoon.
The Long Gray Line graduation parade takes place Friday afternoon.
Saturday: For the last few years each cadet is given 8 tickets. In 2013 the seating was not assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.
If you need more than 8 tickets, ask your cadet to network with his classmates.
Graduation for the Corps of Cadets begins about 9:00 AM each year and is over around 12 noon. If young children will be with you, bring a “distraction bag” with quiet activities.
Previous posts on graduation week may be of help in your planning:
Time flies by. Two years ago I was gearing up for graduation weekend at The Citadel. My graduate is now a first lieutenant in the US Army and on his first deployment.
Two years ago I had no idea I would still be in regular contact with parents of current cadets. Once I posted the information for Citadel Parents to this blog I thought that would be it. Parents could find the information and I would move on to other activities. I was wrong.
What I didn’t expect were the emails and phone calls from Citadel parents. By the spring of 2012 I found it was easier to answer the questions of new parents by posting a Facebook group for parents of the class of 2016. A few friends who are now parents of graduates joined the page too. The group grew. It now boosts over 300 members. A group for the class of 2017 parents is now up and running.
Once your cadet gets through the first year at The Citadel you can volunteer with the Citadel Family Association. It is a great way to help other new families learn the ins and outs of having a cadet at The Military College of South Carolina. It is also a terrific way to make friends. This blog is just one way to learn about The Citadel experience. Any number of parents of current cadets can help answer questions as well. The Citadel Family Association is a great place to find supportive parents.
Next week I will travel to Charleston to be with a few of my Citadel Ya Ya sisters, and visit with a number of families with graduating cadets. In a way I feel like a distant aunt to some of these cadets. Little did I know in 2007 when my son matriculated I would become good friends with the parents of his fellow cadets. And I never would have guessed that I would reunite with an old high school friend from New Jersey.
One day four years ago I received an email asking if I was the same Dorie Griggs who went to Sparta High school. The note was from Gwen, a friend with whom I spent many a weekend with in high school. Who would have guessed that thirty years after leaving high school in New Jersey we would be reunited in South Carolina at The Citadel. Her oldest son is now a graduating senior and will begin his training in the US Army and Gwen will be a Blue Star mother.
Next week I will enjoy being a spectator at the annual rite of passage from cadet to graduate during the Long Gray Line parade. I’ll spend time catching up with good friends and meeting some of the parents I only know through Facebook.