gillian robertson leads a private graduation ceremony in the cloisters of glasgow university
Gillian gathers us in

I finished my MSc in End of Life Studies at the end of 2023 and duly enrolled on the July 2024 graduation. For our School, summer graduation takes place on the Dumfries Campus, not at the main Glasgow University buildings. I was disappointed at this and decided to organize something private in Glasgow anyway.

The Dumfries Campus is pretty – very leafy and green, with some beautiful buildings. But for me it doesn’t have the historical or emotional connections that I feel in the main university area of Glasgow. So I decided I would ask my good friend and celebrant colleague, Gillian Robertson, to lead a little private ceremony. Gillian has conducted graduation ceremonies in the past and she was happy to do this with me.

gillian robertson leads a private graduation ceremony in the cloisters of glasgow university
Smiles (but there were also tears!)

It turned out that several of my fellow students were also interested in the idea. The masters course was delivered online, so we are quite a far-flung group with students from several countries. But by happy coincidence several of the Canadian students were attending a conference in Glasgow immediately before the graduation. So in all, five out of the six “Dumfries graduands” would be in Glasgow just before the main ceremony. Plus another two of the continuing students – one from Glasgow itself, the other from Portugal.

Gillian and I did an early reconnaissance trip in March to plan just where we would hold this impromptu ceremony. We earmarked the Learning Hub where we could all gather (with a café and toilets!). Then we decided we would all process over to the front of the main historic building, overlooking the Kelvin. But we also realized that we might have to be a bit flexible in dealing with the Scottish weather…

And so it turned out – decidedly wet and windy conditions kept us under cover. In the end, Gillian, Marian Krawczyk (Programme Convenor), the five students, plus family and friends gathered in the “cloisters”.

gillian robertson leads a private graduation ceremony in the cloisters of glasgow university
Wrapping it up

Gillian (herself a Glasgow graduate) had familiarized herself with the themes of the course, and been in touch with the students and lecturers so that she could put together a short but very appropriate and inspiring address. She also wove in some words of Maya Angelou and then invited each of to speak about the personal impact of achieving something like this (in some cases, like my own, somewhat late in life). She also delivered a message from the Director of the End of Life Studies Group and my personal supervisor, Dr Naomi Richards. And she even had beautiful gifts for us all from Gina in Mexico who had graduated last winter. (And a little “minding” from Glasgow itself.)

It was a very moving and special moment. Quite different from the more public spectacle of the main Dumfries ceremony. Much more personal and tailored to our own circumstances and the nature of the programme.

The experience underlines the variety of ceremonies and rituals that celebrants can lead. I wanted to thank Gillian for putting it together and leading it so sensitively and effectively. I’m sure she would be very happy to speak to anyone thinking about staging a private ceremony to honour academic achievements, and to find ways to make it an even more special occasion.

Michael Hannah, Broughty Ferry, July 2024

gillian robertson leads a private graduation ceremony in the cloisters of glasgow university
Friends and family!
Do-it-yourself graduation ceremonies (with celebrant!)

One thought on “Do-it-yourself graduation ceremonies (with celebrant!)

  • July 6, 2024 at 3:08 pm

    The ceremony made visible the importance of the program to all of us, and in turn the importance of the individuals to the program. Really well done Michael, and Gillian was wonderful. Thank you for including me. -Marian


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