Sunday, May 23, 2010

Skidmore College's Commencement and a Special Celebration!

This has been a quiet Sunday, much needed after a very busy two days.  This morning I watched Henry so Katie could go to the grocery store.  Henry's dad Bill was playing with his tractor and moving giant rocks from point A to point B, building a rock garden. Katie has many sprouted seedlings waiting to be transplanted.  It's hard to tell when the danger of frost is truly over -- I think they're safe now.  I am glad for this quiet Sunday.  The first-half of the weekend was filled with a lot of happy activity which seems to have wiped me out! 

Yesterday was one of the most enjoyable days I've spent in a very long time.  My co-worker Mary and I attended Skidmore College's Commencement at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to honor our graduating student assistant, Ivan, who's worked in our office for four years.  He came to the United States from Croatia as a  basketball recruit for Kent School in Connecticut.  From Kent he came to Skidmore where he consistently earned Liberty League's all-academic men's basketball team designation for carrying a 3.2 gpa or higher.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet Ivan's mother, Inga (pictured with Ivan, above left), who came to the United States for the first time in her life to attend her son's college graduation.  It was an emotional time for her as she met so many people who have cared for and loved her son since he came to the U.S.  While she speaks very little English, Inga's sentiments were very clear--joy, gratitude, and overflowing love for Ivan and the life he has been able to experience here--all the while realizing how much she has missed.  What a sacrifice she's made in letting go so her son could realize his dreams.   Inga had special thanks for Mary (pictured with Ivan, right) who opened her home to Ivan at Christmas time during his early years at Skidmore, when he couldn't make the trip back home to Croatia. 

After the commencement ceremony, Mary and I joined Ivan, his mother, and his lovely girlfriend Kelli Quinn Sullivan (Skidmore '09) and her family at Prime, at Saratoga National Golfcourse.  It is a beautiful venue and we were seated outdoors where we dined casually while overlooking the ?-th hole (!) as golfers played through.  In a tent nearby, a wedding ceremony was taking place.  It was a sun-filled afternoon out on a beautiful patio.  Umbrellas provided shade while we sat, so relaxed, for what seemed to be too-short a time but was actually hours of easy and happy conversation. 

Also with us, celebrating Ivan's success, was George-Ann Gowan, widow of Don Gowan, Ivan's basketball coach at Kent.  She shared the story of how her husband (because of a dorm-space shortage) manipulated her into letting Ivan stay in their home for "a night or two, or maybe a week" which turned into many months.  It seems Ivan became a real part of their family during that time.  He fell in love with them and with their bull dog. When he came to Skidmore, he shared stories of time in their home, and played videos for us of the bull dog's antics.  For Ivan, the Gowan's home was truly home away from home.  Coach Gowan's sudden death two years ago was a shock and a very sad time for Ivan.  He has remained very close with George-Ann.

When it came time for Ivan to open a few gifts, George-Ann asked if I would take a photo of her and Ivan as she presented him his gift.  She quietly walked over to him, hugged him and whispered in his ear as she handed him something very small. There were quiet tears as she presented Ivan with her husband's whistle.  It was incredibly poingant and while it was a personal moment between the two of them, we all felt the significance of such a meaningful and cherished gift. 

Mary and I were so honored to be included in yesterday's celebration of Ivan's life, of his accomplishments.  He will continue to realize success, already having landed a terrific position in New York City, with plans to pursue his M.B.A. in a year or so.  I told Ivan's he's "the golden child" but really, he's earned every bit of success that's come his way.  He's worked, and played, so hard.  Without such perserverence, I doubt I'd be writing this today.

Here's an article from Scope Magazine, Skidmore's alumni publication, about Ivan and a fellow team-mate.  Please read and see for yourself why Mary and I are so grateful to have had this time with him:

Photos:  by me.

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