George Bowers Sr.: Let’s add some madness to May and June

George Bowers Sr.

My wife and I recently returned from celebrating two college graduations. Last Thursday, my son was hooded at Virginia Tech and officially became a doctor of civil engineering. Then, a few days later, we were at Rutgers University in New Jersey where Nancy’s son, Brandon, received his Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering. These were two very special days for our family to celebrate many years of hard work and dedication. We now covet your prayers for our battles with parental pride.

May and June are the months of graduations. As colleges finish their semesters and as school years draw to a close, thousands of graduates will walk across stages, shake hands with their principals and deans, and receive their diplomas, demonstrating successful completion of educational requirements. Cameras will click, relatives will cheer, and mortarboards will fly into the air as Pomp and Circumstance drones on in the background.

It occurred to me, however, as I sat in these two college coliseums, how very different these commencements are from other events held at these same venues. While I’ve never attended a basketball game at Rutgers, I have been to some at Virginia Tech and I believe the scenario is similar. In the same coliseum, on any given night, five young men run up and down the court shooting and blocking, rebounding and fouling in rigorous athletic competition. They often do so in front of capacity crowds who then explode with energy and applause at every score and good play.

How is it that when nearly a thousand master’s and doctoral graduates take the same floor of the same building to be recognized for their five to eight years of dedicated study, research, and hard work, the stands are half empty? How is that reporters are not on hand to record the life-changing accomplishments of every graduate and broadcast them to the world? These individuals are not simply providing entertainment, but have earned degrees that most will use to support themselves and their families, pay the taxes that fuel our nation, and contribute to society in many meaningful ways. The under-recognition of these achievements seems to underscore the misplaced values of our society.

While high school graduations usually attract large crowds for football fields and gymnasiums, the proportional ratio of spectators to participants is still far below that for most athletic competitions held in those same locations. In addition, fans have to pay for most sporting events while graduations are free and open to all, weather permitting.

I’m not opposed to athletics and I realize that, especially in high school, sports and other extracurricular activities are often the motivation that keeps many students in school to get their education. It’s just sad that athletes consistently draw larger crowds than scholars, especially given the facts that most will soon grow out of their competitive physiques and only a minute minority will ever play at higher levels. There ought to at least be as much “madness” in May and June for graduations as there was in March for basketball.

I know societal values won’t change overnight, but I do hope families and churches will properly recognize and encourage academic accomplishment at least as much as that of athletics. If you know someone graduating on any level this year, please celebrate and value their accomplishments and let them know how important these milestones are to you. And thank their teachers who got them there. Let’s make some noise for this year’s graduates and create some May and June madness! Thankful for graduates, George

George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books, including his latest book of poetry, “Holy Verses.” He can be reached through or at\