Father and Son

Steve Charles—One of the pleasures of being a photographer for Commencement Weekend is opening each of the photos for the first time. Okay, sometimes I’m disappointed (especially when I ALMOST captured an important moment but botched the focus or the lighting). But more often, thanks to our excellent digital cameras, the image I get makes me smile. Or brings tears. Or both. 

Sunday was a powerful moment for these young men and those who love them. Each photo reminds me of how lucky I am to be chronicling these people, and this place.

But one of my favorite photos of the weekend didn’t have much to do with graduating. 

The moment occurred as the faculty was filing into Chadwick Court. They were stepping out at a pretty good clip as the band played and everyone was waiting for the ceremony to begin. Classics Professor Jeremy Hartnett ’96 was among those in the procession when he caught sight of his infant son, Henry. And like the good father he is, without any hesitation that I could see, he went to him. You couldn’t miss the sudden break in the line, and I was lucky enough to get this photo.

For just a moment, just a breath or two, the very important ritual of Commencement and about 1,000 people waited on something even more essential—a father greeting his son, a son looking up at his father (in all that academic regalia.) Somehow in this photo I see what Wabash is all about, though I’m not sure why. 

Professor Peter Mikek, next in line behind Jeremy, and a father himself, stood, watched, and smiled. He waited for Jeremy to rejoin the line, the procession continued, and most in Chadwick Court hadn’t noticed a thing.

I don’t know why I was so moved by this act. Maybe it’s Jeremy’s wonderful sense of priorities. He went through this same ceremony as a student more than a decade ago, and this photo is “think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely” in a microcosm.

Or maybe it’s the expression on Henry’s face, that sense of looking upon one’s father with such wonder and love. I recall seeing those roles switched much of the rest of the day—the faces of fathers, looking upon their sons with wonder, love, and, in the best sense, pride.

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One Response to Father and Son

  1. Dwigh Folts says:

    I am Jer’s Uncle and Henry’s Great Uncle. Steve, thanks for sharing this with all of us!!!!! We are a close family and I have tears in my eyes as I write this.
    BD