Commencement is a time of reflection and new beginnings. As the College prepares to send the Class of 2018 across the Cistern Yard May 11-12, The College Today will share a sampling of how some of our graduating seniors spent their time at CofC, and what comes next.
When the graduating seniors step onto the commencement stage this weekend, they’ll be joining generations of alumni who’ve crossed the Cistern before them – forever tied to the College of Charleston family. And, this year, the family ties at the College’s commencement ceremonies are even stronger than ever – and, in one case, much more literal.
To celebrate his son’s graduation this Saturday, associate professor of art and architectural history Ralph Muldrow will be wearing the necktie his father, Charles Norment Muldrow Jr. ’50, wore at his own College of Charleston commencement ceremony 68 years ago.
“My father gave me the tie when I was in high school and told me that he had worn it when he graduated from the College of Charleston, and I’ve kept the venerated tie ever since,” says Muldrow, who came to the College in 1997 to create the Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program. “He graduated at the top of his class, and his major was chemistry. He is thrilled to have his grandson graduate from his alma mater.”
Muldrow is just one of the five faculty members with children graduating from the College this weekend. Vince Benigni (communication), Devon Hanahan ’87 (Hispanic studies), Scott Peeples (English) and Robert Taylor (music) are also proud parents of graduating seniors and will be on the commencement stage to congratulate them.
“It is truly a family affair – we will be celebrating on so many levels at a place that means so much to all three of our generations,” says Hanahan, who will be joined on the stage by her mother, Rosanne Wray, who was a secondary education professor at the College from 1977 to 1987. In addition to her son Will Hanahan earning his bachelor’s in marketing on Saturday, Hanahan’s sister Kieran Wray Kramer ’85 (whose son Jack is currently a sophomore) will be receiving her M.F.A. on Friday. “Mom will sit with the faculty, and she will be able to go on stage to hug them at both ceremonies. I will have to make sure she doesn’t break into song and dance up there!”
It will certainly be a celebratory moment.
“Watching my daughter receive her diploma will be a rush, I am sure – and seeing and hearing her sing the alma mater and national anthem with five of her fellow voice majors from the music department will touch my and my wife’s hearts,” says Taylor. “There will be a tremendous sense of accomplishment, resolution and some bittersweetness.”
All five professors agree that having their children on campus for four years has been a real treat.
“The College of Charleston has always felt like ‘home’ to me. But with Kiri here, it really felt like home,” says Taylor of his daughter, whom he even had the opportunity to teach. “Can you imagine coming to work to teach your first class and your own daughter dancing up to you and giving you a hug and kiss? It’s been so special.”
It has been special for the students, too – especially for those who majored in their parent’s departments: communication major Grace Benigni (whose mother Mendi Benigni also works at the College, as an instructional technologist for Teaching, Learning and Technology), English major Alex Peeples and music major Kiri Taylor.
“I think the experience that my dad and I had is very unique, given the fact that he’s my dad and my major professor at the College of Charleston,” says Kiri Taylor, who will be pursuing her M.A.T. in choral music at the College this fall. “I got to have the best of both worlds! This experience shaped my entire college experience and it has shaped me into who I am today.”
Where the graduates take their College of Charleston experience next is up to them.
“For Ben, the sky is the limit! His computer abilities will all be for the good of all people,” says Muldrow, noting that his son, computer science major Ben Muldrow, has accepted a job at Boomtown, a Charleston-based software company specializing in real estate marketing. “I hope he will have a happy and fulfilling life and that he will take more time now and then to enjoy a diversity of pastimes.”
Finding fulfillment in whatever they do is something all parents want for their children after they’ve graduated from college.
“This education was only the start,” says Hanahan, adding a little advice to the graduating seniors: “Never stop learning and being curious about the world. Put down your phones and live in the moment!”
And for this generation of the College of Charleston family, that moment is now!