Saturday, May 16, 2009


I trotted into the official party robing room behind the graduation stage about ten minutes late, a little breathless, on hot pink satin stiletto heels. In the official party robing room, I found a crowd of serious big whigs. A nobel prize winning chemist. A scientist who founded mycology. THE preeminent gender historian. The chancellor. A whole bunch of deans. And some heavy-hitting professors picked to escort these super smarties. None of the people in the room seemed too keen on my "oh my gosh I am so silly and dizzy and kind of a flighty little mess" routine, but that's my default holy-shit-I'm-nervous-and-feel-very-self-conscious-and-out-of-place coping mechanism, so eff them, you know?

I might actually be getting a bit too old to pull this act off, now that I think about it. Compared to the REAL doctors (MDs), all of the PhDs looked ancient. When the med school students began to file across the stage, the dean sitting next to me said "Would you let any of these kiddos operate on you?" I cracked up because I had just been thinking about how creepy it would be to see one of their babyfaces peering at me between the stirrups, you know?

The secretary of the faculty was super annoyed that I was late-ish (I had to leap from the moving car and scamper into the Kohl Center waving my letter that told me where to go and asking anyone who looked official where the hell the platform party was assembling), but he found the time to squeeze in some quick onstage directions.

I measured my head with a downloaded paper tape measurer from the bookstore's website, but the measurement was (surprise, surprise) not accurate, so I couldn't wear my mortar board and instead had to wear a poofy hat. It was silly looking and a bit tight. Also, it smelled.

I was pretty nervous, but I felt so ridiculously out of place on the platform with all the important people that I just sort of leaned up against the dean of the College of Letters and Sciences and the fabulous historian who was escorting Joan Scott (the two people I was wedged between) and enjoyed the show. I was so excited to meet Joan Scott, by the way. I gushed, and I am not a gusher. As the ceremony progressed, several women crossing the stage stopped in front of Scott and said things like, "Thank you," and "You made my work possible," and she didn't even know them-- it was super cool.

Then the chancellor introduced me, and my stomach lurched.

Ben got some fantastically bad pictures of me on the jumbotron

But this one is really cool-- my speech was captioned on the jumbotron, too.

Another of me speaking-- this time with a few less chins.

The speech was fine-- I was a little wigged out because the mic sounded so echoey to me and I was afraid that I got the angle wrong or something, but when no one scurried up to fix it, I figured I was okay, but by that time the speech was almost over, and I was already to the dramatic part, so I kind of missed it.

When I got back to my awkward seat, I noticed that in a typically classy move, I knocked a stack of super lame doctoral candidate business cards all over the stage as I gathered my notebook on my way to the podium. When I got back from walking through the march line and getting my (empty) diploma folder, I noticed that either the nice dean or the famous historians had stacked them up for me.

Looking super pissy about something

My parents

Yayyyy!!! Finally off the stage!!!! (Although, I did have an excellent view of some odd and unsettling shoe/pant/maxidress choices as people filed past me across the stage).

My dear friend Maegan, who entered the program with me, came back from Seattle where she lives with her awesome husband Dave, for graduation. I love that we got to share graduation, since we shared a wonderful advisor, life as broke grad students for a few years, and all the ups and downs of dissertating.

I am not sure if these pictures show how HAPPY we all were, but oh my gosh-- bliss! I have been a bitch on wheels for weeks, and as soon as my speech was over, I felt so much nicer and calmer.

We went to a charming French restaurant and had a phenomenal dinner complete with personalized menus and a ton of liquor and just like college, my dad drove us home.

Ben put this huge sign on the living room wall-- he's the best.

Which is an understatement. He has been unbelievable this week. He got me a sweet mothers day gift, an absolutely fantastic birthday present (two actually-- one for each ear), and the most gorgeous graduation flowers. He took the whole week off so I could get my dissertation deposited, and he did all the house and kid work perfectly. He threw a party for Maegan and me at our advisor's house today, and he ordered my favorite cake (chocolate with buttercream icing that calls me a doctor).

It's hard to imagine a better week!

When I handed in my dissertation on Thursday, in between calling the graduate school in the early stages of hysteria and demanding to talk to the dean because I was concerned about my page numbers being off by a quarter of an inch, I had to put finishing touches on my document like a list of acknowledgments and the dedication page. Here's what I decided on for a dedication:
To Ben, without whom I'd have nothing to dedicate and to whom I will always be dedicated.

I thought I'd tell all of you since the chances of anyone ever opening my dissertation and reading the first page are pretty slim. Ah, the glamour of the academy.

Speaking of glamour, here I am ringing in my 31st by blowing out the candles on my breakfast cake.


  1. Tripod10:07 PM

    We loved it. The speech is awesome, actually!

  2. Anonymous10:51 PM

    thank you for the wonderful entry..I feel like we were there and very little precious, now grown up..Bomma

  3. Wow!!! I read it twice. Loved this post. Congratulations so many times over. It looks like such a special, wonderful time. And you looked fantastic!

    Congratulations, Doctor!

  4. Great post, Sarah! And YES we could tell how happy you & Maegan were/are! It was fairly beaming out of you, as it should be.


  5. I LOVE this post Sarah. So honest. So inspirational. I also adore your dedication-- truly poetic. Congratulations!!!!

  6. Cathleen4:09 PM

    I was hoping you would post a video of your speech! Congratulations! You look beautiful and incredibly happy.

  7. Dr. Sarah!! So happy for you and love those pictures! I'm a little choked up reading the post and we've never even met! LOL it's been amazing following your journey through this blog and I'm so proud of you! I can't wait to see what's next for you!

  8. Hi Sarah,
    I have been reading your blog for a few months now and really enjoy it -- I laugh out loud often while reading.

    Congratulations on your defense and graduation!


  9. Anonymous8:16 PM

    I can't quit laughing about the hat!! Is that true?? Boo

  10. Congrats -- that is such an amazing accomplishment! Now I have to know which french restaurant????

  11. Okay, so I was trying to get a time to sit down, really read and digest this post, and come up with a good comment. But I give up :) It is taking too long to find that time!