Middlebury family faces graduation day dilemma

MIDDLEBURY — “Timing is everything,” or so the old saying goes. And unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be worse for the Harrison family of Middlebury — at least as it pertains to graduation ceremonies this year.
Perhaps they’re going through a skein of bad luck, perhaps it’s a freakish alignment of the stars, but Jim and Shelley Harrison recently learned that all three of their children’s college commencement services would be taking place on the same day, Sunday, May 18.
Three kids.
Three schools.
Three graduations.
One day.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” was Shelley Harrison’s reaction to the unfortunate May 18 trifecta that will prevent the two parents from attending all three ceremonies. Son Robbie, 24, will be earning his diploma from the Boston University School of Law. Son Sean, 22, will be earning his undergraduate degree from Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y. And daughter Morgan will be earning her undergraduate diploma from the University of Vermont.
Of course since the three Harrison siblings are not triplets, their respective academic roads took some detours in concluding on the same day.
All three graduated in different years from Middlebury Union High School, just like their parents.
Robbie, the first to graduate, enrolled at Boston University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, then elected to stay on at B.U. to attend law school.
Sean did a post-graduate year at the Holderness School in Plymouth, N.H., before enrolling at Hobart.
Morgan went straight from MUHS graduation to UVM in 2010.
This put all three students on pace for graduation in 2014, but they never imagined that all three institutions would hold their commencement services on the same day.
“I was hoping the B.U. School of Law (graduation) would be on a Friday or Saturday,” Shelley lamented.
Jim and Shelley Harrison
Jim and Shelley Harrison have often made the approximately 700-mile triangle trip between Boston, Geneva and Burlington in the past to see their three children. But they’ve never had to do it in one day. The May 18 ceremonies are so close together that it would preclude a rapid-fire, “tour de colleges” for the couple. So they have decided to sort it out diplomatically. Shelley will attend Morgan’s graduation at UVM; Jim will see Sean get his diploma at Hobart; and grandparents Janice and Jerry Munson will see Robbie’s commencement ceremony in Boston.
“All of us were at Robbie’s undergraduate ceremony,” Shelley noted, reasoning the oldest son might not feel as left out by not having a parent present this time around.
“At least we will have all made one (graduation ceremony on May 18),” Jim Harrison said. “Then we will have one big party for everyone.”
The three siblings understand their parents’ quandary and do not fault them for having to improvise.
“I think in a way they feel bad about not being able to be at each others’ ceremonies,” Shelley said. “We like to do things as a family.”
And while the family will be divided on May 18, a common bond of pride will envelop them all on that big day. Sean Harrison explained that theirs is the first generation of siblings in the family to all graduate from college.
Sean said he knows what his mom would be doing if she were able to be at his graduation.
“My first reaction to hearing the news was, ‘What’s mom going to think? She always wants pictures,’” he said.
Jim Harrison said he and his wife will be thinking about all three children on May 18.
“We were proud the day they were born, and they’re still making us proud,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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