Happy Graduation Day, Andrew

Cathedral Chorister

Andrew has been singing since his days as a National Cathedral Chorister, so it was no surprise that graduation weekend was filled with his music.

Andrew has been singing professionally since he was 8 years old.  So fourteen years later, it comes as no surprise that as we celebrate his graduation from Brown University, the weekend has been filled with his music.

(Editor’s Note:  This is the second of two posts about the commencement weekends as the twins graduated from college.  I treat my blog like the 21st century version of letter writing, in that I can write one item and it can go out to family and friends everywhere.  These blog posts are all about family.  If you don’t want to read about how wonderful my children are – then stop reading.  Note…you’ve been warned!)

Candice, Claire, and I arrived home on Tuesday from Claire’s graduation just in time to fall into bed, get up the next morning to run errands and wash clothes, and then pile into the car on Thursday to drive to Providence to be with Andrew.  As one friend said, “You all must be approaching exhaustion, but what a lovely way to get there . . .”

Lovely, indeed.

At the Van Wickle Gates

Andrew at Brown University’s Van Wickle Gates – part of the rite of passage of the Class of 2015

We connected with Andrew on Friday and began the necessary task of packing the dorm room.  Andrew benefited by being the second twin in this regard.  We came prepared with boxes, supplies, and a plan!  Two hours later we were well past the halfway point and walked down to celebrate over a lunch of Greek delicacies at Andreas – one of Andrew’s favorites along the commercial core – Thayer Street – that cuts through the college campus.

The first of four musical treats came later in the day, as the Brown University Madrigal Singers held their Commencement 2015 Concert in the beautiful St. Stephens Episcopal Church, located in the heart of the college campus in Providence.

Alex and Andrew

Alex Warstadt and Andrew, the two graduating singers from the Madrigals

Andrew was one of two graduating seniors in the Madrigals, and he also served as the music director for the year.  (Alex Warstadt, the other graduating senior, had that role his junior year.)  The group performed a wonderful 60-minute concert, beginning with the beautiful Ubi Caritas by Maurice Duruflé.


Brown University Madrigal Singers

The selections were varied, with several holding personal meaning for three of the singers.  Alex introduced a Kyrie that he had composed for a contrapuntal composition class.  Sami Overby noted that two of the songs – from Ogden Nash’s Four Animal Poems – had been set to music by his great-uncle, Rolf Overby, while at St. Olaf’s College.  The Termite – with a “knock, knock” going on behind the main lyrics – was a crowd favorite:

Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good!
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.

Then Andrew floored me with the introduction to Orlando GibbonsMagnificat (Short Service).  He said it was important to him to have this piece included in the concert because he had heard it as a young boy on a recording of his father’s early music group Canticum Novum*, and always loved its simple beauty.  He noted that I was in the audience that evening, and then the Madrigals sang this wonderful composition – bringing memories from my heart and tears to my eyes.

(*Note:  If you go to the link above, check  out Lesson #37)

After a delightful Now is the Month of Maying, and a tune performed for the seniors, Andrew announced that the traditional ending for a Brown University Madrigals Concert was John Clements’ Flower of Beauty, and he invited the alumni from the group to join them.

Flower of Beauty

The Madrigal Singers and their Alumni sing “Flower of Beauty”

It was a wonderful evening, and we were delighted that another Brown alumni – our dear friend Kristin Faust who, with her daughter Sojourner, moved from Silver Spring to Chicago last spring – was there to share it with us.  Andrew and Claire then left to go to the “The Campus Dance” (along with 11,000 of their closest friends) for a night of fun and fireworks, while Candice and I had a wonderful meal at one of our favorite Providence restaurants, Gracie’s.

Andrew and Claire

Andrew and Claire at the Campus Dance


Fireworks at the Campus Dance

Saturday dawned bright, clear, and cool in Providence, and we were up not too much after dawn!  Andrew was one of two soloists for the morning’s All-class Memorial Service, a very moving remembrance, led by The Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, Chaplain of the University.  Our good friends from Silver Spring – Dolores McDonagh and Jamie Karn – joined us, as they were in town for Dolores’ 35th reunion at Brown.  (Andrew has now figured out that he’ll see Kristin and Dolores at each of his major reunions in the future.  Both have been very supportive of Andrew. Kristin, who heads up Neighborhood Housing Services in Chicago – has bonded with Andrew over his Urban Studies work, while Dolores – a fellow a capella aficionado – has encouraged him in his singing.)

All Class Memorial Service

Andrew sings at the All Class Memorial Service, with University Organist Mark Steinbach on the piano

In the early afternoon, it was time for the Baccalaureate Service, held at the historic First Baptist Church in America.  Besides the music and Urban Studies communities, Andrew has many friends through his membership in the Alpha Delta Phi Society at Brown, and we were thrilled to see the seniors from Alpha Delta Phi processing down the hill together.  This is a remarkable group of young men and women – as their website describes them, “a cozy, co-ed community of musicians, scientists, and philosophers.”  Andrew has lived in the Alpha Delta Phi house on campus for three years, and we’ve enjoyed getting to know these remarkable individuals and their parents.  (Plus, we always enjoy the Friday afternoon tea held during Parents’ Weekend!)

A D Phi Seniors

Andrew and his fellow seniors from the Alpha Delta Phi Society in the procession to Saturday’s Baccalaureate Service

During the service, which we watched on the big screen in Sayles Hall on the College Green, Andrew joined the chorus in singing Randall Thompson’s Alleluia.


Andrew (far left in the rear) as part of the chorus singing Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia” at Saturday’s Baccalaureate Service

Following the service, we hustled down to the Grant Recital Hall for the 34th annual senior recital – The Carl and Dorothy O. Jagolinzer Memorial Commencement Concert.  The Jagolinzer family – who sponsor the recital in honor of their parents – joined friends and family to hear two hours of wonderful music from music concentrators and others – like Andrew – who have studied extensively in the music department at Brown.

Andrew sings Mozart

Andrew and pianist Simon Goldring, following their performance of Mozart at the Jagolinzer Memorial Concert

Accompanied by Simon Goldring – a very talented musician from Hingham, Norfolk, England – Andrew sang Mozart’s Del più sublime soglio, closing out his singing career at Brown with a wonderful performance.  Afterwards, the family had a chance to meet Arlene Cole, whose Advanced Musicianship class ranks as Andrew’s most favorite and challenging class in the music department.  He has loved his connections with Fred Jodry, Brad Fugate, and all his music professors at Brown.

Andrew with Arlene Cole

Andrew with his Advanced Music professor, Arlene Cole

I have to admit that when we woke up on Sunday morning for graduation day, I still didn’t understand how this “processional” from the College Green, through the Van Wickle Gates (where they processed in as freshmen), and down the hill to The First Baptist Church in America was going to work…and hold my attention for two hours.  As we hiked up College Hill early in the morning, the stripe (in Brown’s school colors) and the barriers gave a hint that something big was in the works.

Processional Route

The Brown colors in the center stripe designate the processional route

But Andrew (and our Brown friends) kept insisting that the processional was the heart and soul of the Brown commencement, and that we really wanted to experience it on-site, as opposed to watching on the big screens at the College Green.  Andrew suggested we join the Alpha Delta Phi Society cheering section outside the Gerard House (an earlier house of Alpha Delta Phi, before they moved on campus) to get the full flavor.  Oh my!

AD Phi Cheering Section

We joined the Alpha Delta Phi cheering section along the processional route

What came next was the most remarkable two hours of commencement I’ve ever seen – without any official speakers or conferring of degrees.  Brown has a tremendous reunion culture, in part because the alumni get to participate in – and relive – the processional each year.  The procession comes through the Van Wickle gates, led by the oldest reunion classes (75th, in this year’s case…remember, that’s a 97-year old individual!). The reunion classes then line the streets, creating a tunnel of humanity that is clapping, cheering, and generally having a wonderful time for two full hours.  The classes are easy to spot – not only by the age of the graduates, but by the signs they make to tell the class of 2015 what Brown was like “back in the day.”

Reunion signs

You can tell the reunion groups by their signs along the procession

Once all the reunion classes are in place, then the students from the class of 2015 begin their walk down College Hill, and the cheering is incredible. Everyone is in a very festive mood.


Andrew processes through the ranks of reunion groups and faculty on graduation day

When Andrew and his fellow seniors from Alpha Delta Phi came by our vantage point, the “cheering section” began to sing one of the society’s songs – with the soon-to-be-graduates joining in.  Claire was my “spotter” in finding Andrew – and other friends – in the crowd, while she and Candice also took pictures and videos on their iPhones.  At the bottom of the hill, the class of 2015 lines up along the sides of the road and then the alumni reunion groups process through them – to raucous cheering and singing.  This goes on for almost two hours. On a picture-perfect weather day, it was magical.

Andrew waves from the procession

The happy graduate!

After a brief ceremony on the lawn of The First Baptist Church in America, the class walks back up College Hill for ceremonies on the Green.  As was the case last week, the two student speakers were outstanding, and the actual ceremony was relatively short.  Because of the size of the graduating class, diplomas are given out by departments.  The Urban Studies distribution ceremony and reception was held at the Brown Faculty Club, a fitting historic building for a program focused on the design and function of urban areas.

Urban Studies

Andrew is recognized during the Urban Studies reception at the Faculty Club

Program Director Dietrich Neumann is one of Andrew’s favorite professors – especially following a six-week class on Modern Architecture and Urbanism that he took in Spain the summer after his sophomore year.  Professor Neumann (an expert on Mies van der Rohe – and yes, we did talk about flood mitigation at the Farnsworth House!) was the MC for the event, which recognized outstanding work by urban studies students.  The 14 concentrators received their diplomas, and then all the parents and family toasted the new graduates.

Urban Studies

2015 Urban Studies graduates with program director Dietrich Neumann

Receiving his diploma

Andrew receives his diploma at the Urban Studies reception from professors Stefano Bloch and Dietrich Neumann, along with Brown Corporation Trustee Emeritus James Winoker

Photo by Claire

Claire’s champagne salute “to her favorite urban studies graduate”

Following the ceremony at the Faculty Club, we joined the other graduates and their families, plus the members of the faculty and staff of the Urban Studies program, for a lively reception full of hugs, pictures, and stories.

The Happy Family celebrates Andrew

Candice, DJB, and Claire with the happy graduate, at the Brown Faculty Club

DUG Co-Leaders

Andrew with Jenna Klorfein, DUG Co-Leaders for the Urban Studies Program

Andrew and Dietrich

Andrew with Professor Dietrich Neumann, Director of the Urban Studies Program at Brown University

We ended Sunday night at another of our favorite Providence restaurants, The Salted Slate.  The room was packed with celebratory families and friends – including a couple of Andrew’s friends – and we toasted the newly minted Brown University graduate.

Brown Celebration at the Salted Slate

Celebrating Andrew’s graduation at The Salted Slate, one of our favorite Providence restaurants

Monday we arose for breakfast at Blue State Coffee (which, along with Ellie’s, ranks at the top of my list of bakeries and coffee houses), before completing the packing of Andrew’s dorm room.  We then met up with our friends Kristen and Sojourner for a delightful lunch along Thayer Street.  Because Providence is such a wonderful food town, we’re heading out again on Monday night for dinner at The Grange, a highly recommended Vegetable Restaurant, to close out our celebration of Andrew’s wonderful accomplishments.

The members of Alpha Delta Phi gave Andrew and the other seniors a remembrance of the years at Brown University. For Andrew’s, each member wrote something to describe him or to say what he meant to them. Over and over I read words such as kind, caring, passionate, talented, intelligent, and more.  Several mentioned about how he was always there for them. I smiled, thinking of how these “musicians, scientists, and philosophers” had seen the same talented, sensitive and caring young man that we so love.

Congratulations, Andrew!  What a wonderful accomplishment.  Mom and I are so proud of you and we can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings!

With love and more to come…


Happy Graduation Day, Claire

Claire at Easter 1994

Our Claire…always the student

Twenty-two years ago, I never dreamed this day would come.

Not that Claire wasn’t always eager to learn.  But when your hands are full with new twins, two decades seems like such a long time in the future.

But the years have flown by and this weekend finds us in Southern California for Claire’s graduation from Pomona College. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were all flying here to leave our daughter on the west coast, at a school she obviously loved but that seemed so far away from home?

Pomona was recommended to Claire by Leonard King, her insightful and supportive high school teacher and college counselor at Maret, who had an amazing record of linking students with just the right college that offered the most chance for personal and intellectual growth.  Claire and I first saw Pomona together on a spring break trip. When she decided to apply early decision and Candice was concerned about having her so far from home, I did what any take-charge father would do: I said to Candice, “You take her for a visit and then you tell her she can’t go!”  (Clever, huh?)  Candice – just like Claire and me – fell in love with the beautiful campus, the intellectual pursuits of the faculty and students, and the feeling of support and understanding that permeates the college.

Claire at Pomona

Our Pomona Class of 2015 Graduate

Claire’s senior year began last August, after our memorable cross-country road trip, which could stand as a metaphor for the year ahead.  Nine months later, here we are, celebrating the end of one journey and the beginning of another.  Andrew – flying in from Boston – joined us on Thursday night (actually Friday morning, as his plane was late) so the three of us could be in attendance to celebrate our Claire. We began the packing of the dorm room on Friday morning, to get a jump on the work that no one really wants to undertake.

Claire with Jason

Claire with Jason Harris at Friday’s taco dinner

Claire has met the most amazing and thoughtful group of friends while at Pomona, and their generosity of spirit came through on Friday night.  Claire and her suitemates joined two other suites to host a taco dinner for their families, as a way of saying “thank you.” While the (welcomed in drought-striken Southern California) rain drove the party indoors, it was a great time to reconnect with families and friends we’ve come to know over these four years – some from as close as Georgetown and others from throughout the world. That generosity continued on Saturday morning when one of Claire’s swim teammates – Hannah – and her family included us in their rooftop brunch to kick off the day of celebration.

Rooftop Garden Brunch

Rooftop Garden Brunch

It didn’t take us long to realize that we were going to eat our way through the graduation weekend.  From the rooftop garden of Sontag Hall, we walked over to Lincoln Hall – and the amazing James Turrell Skyspace installation – for a luncheon with the Psychology majors and faculty.

Psychology Faculty Lunch

Claire with Shlomi Sher (L) and Sharon Goto (R), members of the Psychology Faculty, at Saturday’s lunch

Psychology Faculty Lunch

Claire with Psychology Professor Jessie Borelli beside the James Turrell Skyspace

Claire has loved her work in psychology with these amazing professors, and is excited to have a position in Los Angeles beginning in August with the Episcopal Urban Internship Program that will let her build on her study in real world applications.

One of the traditions at Pomona is that the incoming freshman class walks through the gates to the college, and the graduating seniors walk back out through those gates during graduation weekend.  Led by a bagpiper, the class of 2015 celebrated as they walked through those gates and off to Class Day and dinner.  We closed out the evening with a Glee Club concert in Little Bridges Music Hall that was wonderful.  Andrew – our professional – was singing their praises through the rest of the weekend.

Marching through Pomona's gates

Claire – and the class of 2015 – march through the gates of Pomona and out into the world

Sunday morning finally arrived, and – having scoped out the scene the day before – we arrived early to sit where we could see Claire in the procession and have a great view of the stage.  Held on Marston Quadrangle in the middle of campus, graduation takes place beneath a shade canopy.  Here’s an excerpt from the description in the program:

The shade canopy above the graduates is the work of Los Angeles artists Jenna Didier and Oliver Hess and architectural designer Emily White.  It was first installed for the Pomona 2009 College Commencement, with faculty, students, and staff helping to attach the streamers to the net.  The shade structure is based on “Voronoi tessellaions,” algorithms of weaving and lace-making, coordinated with a solar incidence angle study that determines an optimum density pattern, allowing for shade where most needed, and keeping the canopy as lightweight and transparent as possible. The net’s lattice follows a pattern…derived from string figures, known as “clown’s collar.”

Shade Canopy

Pomona College Graduation Shade Canopy

Another Pomona tradition is the wearing of leis by many of the graduates.  We had ordered two – one from our family and one from Claire’s Grandmother Colando – and Andrew and I met Claire on Sunday morning to help her prepare for the processional. While there, swim team coach Jean-Paul Gowdy – known to all as J.P. and a true mentor for Claire in her four years on the team – stopped by for a hug and congratulations.

Graduation Lei

Andrew helps Claire with her graduation lei

Claire with Coach JP

Swim Coach JP Gowdy stops by to add his congratulations

Preparing to process

Andrew and DJB with Claire, as she prepares to process into graduation

Then we took our seats and it was time for the processional.


Claire processes in for graduation

Claire has had multiple communities at Pomona – all of which have nurtured and helped her grow while she has contributed to their health and vitality. The swim team is one of the most important, and they were there throughout commencement.  J.P. looked cool in his shades, while the team cheered loudly – and waved “Big Heads” – anytime a swim team senior received a diploma.

Swim Coach

Coach JP – the coolest faculty member in the procession

Swim team cheering section

Swim team cheering section – with Jackie and Claire looking over the proceedings

This was one of those ceremonies where the student speakers gave the featured commencement speaker a run for her money…they were that good.  Of the four honorary degrees, we all agreed that the remarks by Michael Dickerson (’01), were not only the most humorous, but also the most insightful.  Dickerson – the administrator of the newly created U.S. Digital Service in the White House – spoke about how his work at Google, with the Obama campaign, and as one of the chief “fixers” of HealthCare.gov was not part of any great plan.  In fact, he said he “Wasn’t speaking to all those folks at the top of the program who were graduating with various honors and probably had their lives figured out, but to everyone else who didn’t have a clue as to what they would be doing tomorrow.”  That spoke to not only a great many graduates, but also their families.

The Browns were also pleased to see that another of the honorary degrees went to Andrew Lewison Hoyem (’57), the founder of the Arion Press.  When he was being introduced as someone who had been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Claire turned to her seatmate and said, “That’s where my dad works!”

Two hours into the ceremony, the college began handing out the degrees.  And it was a wonderful celebration!

Marching across the stage

Claire receives her degree from Pomona President David Oxtoby

Claire in the recessional

Claire in the recessional

We cheered for Claire and her friends (both old and new), cried a bit (well, at least I did), and joined the new graduates on the quad for photos, photos, and more photos.  (Yes, I was the official photographer of Claire Brown’s graduation.)

Candice and Claire

Candice celebrates with the new graduate

The Browns at Pomona

Candice, DJB, and Andrew with the graduate – the Happy Family

One of the first group of students Claire met her freshman year was the sponsor group from her dorm.  These graduating seniors met on the steps of Little Bridges after the ceremony one last time for a photo and hugs.  Of course the swim team seniors also gathered, with a large group of supporters there to cheer them on.

Freshman Sponsor Group

Freshman Sponsor Group

Swim Team Seniors

2015 Pomona-Pitzer Swim Team Seniors following graduation

There are a number of Washington-area students at Pomona and the Claremont Colleges.  One who Claire didn’t know until she arrived at Pomona is now her dear friend Ella Taranto.  Of course, Andrew used to sing with Ella’s older sister at the National Cathedral, and the Taranto’s have multiple connections to friends of ours in the DC-area.  And – no surprise here – both will be in Southern California come this fall.

Claire with Ella

Claire and Ella – they lived several miles from each other and went to high schools that were less than two miles apart, but had to travel across the country to find each other and establish a wonderful friendship

Claire’s suitemates her Sophomore and Senior years have all become very special friends.  Two – Jackie and Ali – were in her suite both years and are fellow swim team members. Kyra was in the sophomore group, and Susan joined the crew their senior year.  These are all incredibly talented and wonderful young ladies, and our entire family’s life has been enriched by knowing them.

Claire with Susan

Claire with her suitemate Susan

Claire with Jackie

Claire with her suitemate Jackie

Claire with Ali

Claire with her suitemate Ali

Sophomore and Senior Suitemates

Claire’s suitemates from her Sophomore and Senior Years – Susan (Sr), Ali (So/Sr), Jackie (So/Sr), and Kyra (So)

And the parents of these wonderful young ladies have also become friends, so we gathered for pictures – and a celebratory high-five.

Senior Parents

Vickie, Bruce, Candice, David, John, and Margaret – Parents from the Senior Suite

Parents celebrate

The parents celebrate graduation!

Sunday’s celebration ended at Union on Yale, Claire’s favorite Claremont restaurant (since Claremont Craft Ales doesn’t technically count as a restautant!).  We toasted the graduate, enjoyed oysters and other good food, and reflected on the past four wonderful years at Pomona College.

At Union on Yale

Celebrating the graduate at Union on Yale – Claire’s favorite Claremont restaurant

Andrew may have said it best on his Facebook post as he jumped on the red-eye back to Boston to begin his Senior Week celebrations.

Today, I saw my twin sister and best friend graduate from Pomona College after four years of hard work, joys, challenges, and triumphs.  I can’t even begin to describe how proud I am to call you my sister.  Congratulations, Claire!  I love you.

I can’t even begin to describe how proud Mom and I are to call you our daughter.  Congratulations, and all our love.

More to come…