To the Graduates – a reflection

Published 10:32 am Monday, May 7, 2018

Graduation season has descended on the LOU Community, and Ole Miss is kicking it off.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate, and I’m not just talking about being able to turn left on Jackson Avenue once again. The Class of 2018 has seen a multitude of changes since they first stepped onto campus as wide-eyed freshmen four years ago.

In 2014, the old Student Union, affectionately called the “1970s Eyesore,” was fully functioning, with the trusty upstairs Subway restaurant and looming front steps. You could still drive down – and park on – Student Union Drive. This year’s graduates also endured the Year of the Chick-fil-A Truck, before the Student Union reopened with its various updates.

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The opening of the Pavilion was a highlight, now enjoyed by everyone from freshmen to Morgan Freeman, who can often be found courtside, cheering on the Rebs. With the largest jumbotron in college sports, the building itself has made Ole Miss basketball a destination, even when the team isn’t at peak performance.

2018 graduates have also seen Vaught-Hemingway Stadium bowled in, saying goodbye to the metal bleachers in the north end zone in favor of more substantial seating. Of course, that also means they relinquished the old student section in the shaded south end zone to those who’d pay good money for the seats. But, the Ole Miss student section is anything if not resilient, and has stayed with the Rebs, cheering them to the occasional victory in spite of sun stroke and dehydration.

The recently completed Jake Gibbs Belltower is another fine addition to the Rebel football experience, and will bring the Walk of Champions to a nice close before every home game. The bricks surrounding it are a permanent way for graduates to commemorate their time as well as their commitment to a place as special as Ole Miss.

Rebel football has seen some ups and downs since 2014, starting with the legendary victories over Alabama and Mississippi State and ending with the NCAA investigation’s findings as well as the start of the Matt Luke era.

This year’s graduating class bore witness to some of the most notable times in Ole Miss history, sparking debate about the state flag and accepting and contextualizing parts of the university’s checkered past.

They’ve seen six of their fellow students compete in the Rio Olympics and sent others to compete academically at national levels. 

For all the good and bad, there’s no place like the LOU. Oxford, and Ole Miss by default, has been called a “Velvet Ditch,” a comfortable place that’s easy to fall into and hard to leave. For those leaving for good after May 12, I wish you luck. I’m sure you’ll go on to do great things. Oxford will always be a place you can come home to when you need a little pick-me-up.

For those lucky enough to stay, to live and work here, congratulations. The good times are just beginning.