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A Notable Milestone

A Notable Milestone

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Colleges and universities announce graduation dates well in advance of the planned ceremonies. The pageantry of formal graduation ceremonies with the faculty and administration garbed in their academic regalia is well known. As president of APUS, I presided over 15 in-person ceremonies and a virtual ceremony before retiring in August 2020.

At the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year, I dutifully recorded the dates for Baylor University’s and Texas A&M University’s May and August graduation ceremonies since my twin daughters were rising seniors at those institutions. Living within driving distance of both universities, my wife and I knew that hotel rooms were the important item to book in advance.

As time drew closer to May, there were announcements about graduation parties as well as athletic team awards ceremonies. We added those to our calendars as well. My daughter Sarah, a Baylor student, received a full-time job offer last August after she completed her summer internship with a business consulting firm. She accepted that offer which gave us and her the advantage of planning to move the college furniture that she is keeping to her new apartment instead of moving it back home or storing it.

Sarah is a four-year member of Baylor’s equestrian team and she and four of her senior classmates (and teammates) planned a graduation party that their parents would host at an Airbnb-rented house. Naturally, there were shared responsibilities for food, beverages, and music that the parents coordinated in advance. With Baylor’s undergraduate graduation ceremonies split into four separate ceremonies over two days, some of the girls graduated the day of the party and some graduated the next day. The party was a great chance to unwind and talk with her friends’ parents about something other than the many team competitions that our daughters had participated in over the past four years.

My daughter’s graduation ceremony was the second one on Saturday and the fourth undergraduate ceremony for the week. The Baylor faculty and staff in charge were clearly experienced at their duties and the ceremony went off without a hitch. As someone with experience presiding over such a ceremony, I admired the efficiency as well as the extra touches.

What I did not anticipate doing during the graduation ceremony was to get lost in my thoughts about what college graduation means to my daughter, her friends, and our family. Despite the eloquent and pithy advice for the future dispensed to the graduates by Baylor’s president, a former college athlete at Oklahoma State University, my reflections were as much about the past and present as they were about the future.

From an educational perspective, earning a bachelor’s degree is the end of formal academic instruction for most Americans. While my daughter has expressed interest in possibly earning an MBA one day, her thoughts are focused on the start of her career (and paycheck) in July. My thoughts ran back to her excitement on her first day of kindergarten and previous graduation ceremonies for fourth grade, eighth grade, and twelfth grade. The possibility that this could be her last graduation was something I had to get over, not her.

My next reflection was about the choice(s) that she and her friends have made for their first jobs. Some of her friends are going to med school, law school, or nursing school and have effectively deferred their job searches. Others have jobs for the summer that may or may not convert to full-time employment. Some, like Sarah, have committed to a professional position that may or may not become their permanent avocation. I can’t guarantee anything about the twists and turns that their careers may take. However, I can predict that it’s highly likely that the position they retire from 40-50 years from now will not be like the position that they’re starting at immediately after graduation.

When my thoughts moved from career to family, I decided that was the point at which I would return to reality and stop thinking about all the possibilities of life in the future. My daughter has accomplished much academically, athletically, and socially. She is equipped with the tools to rise to the challenges that she may encounter and has a very good idea where to find the resources and experiences that she doesn’t have. To Sarah and her friends, I note that the questions and challenges that will surface in the years ahead will seldom have a single answer, nor is there necessarily a right answer. Go with the answer that you think is the best and if you’re not sure, do not be embarrassed to ask a friend, relative, or trusted mentor.

Life outside the world of academics is not as logical, linear, or predictable. Wading through the forest of career and life decision trees is a personal voyage, not easily modeled in algorithms or scenarios. Always keep your head and heart aimed at the same goal and over the long run, you will do well.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

Comment(1)

  1. Congratulations to you and your daughter, Wally. She has obviously accomplished much in her young life and I’m sure it will continue with your encouragement and sage advice.

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