(Editor’s Note, Dr. Dwight Edman earned his Ph.D. in 1970 working with John W. Moore. This text originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of the Sun Rays Magazine. Dr. Dwight D. Edman and Sun City Texas graciously granted IU permission to reprint it here).
I didn’t get to pick when I would graduate from high school in Monterey, California, from Occidental College in Los Angeles, or from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. But at least I was able to participate in the first two graduations on time; at IU, it was a 51-year wait.
Why so long? Why not walk with my fellow graduates in the first place?
The 1960s were tumultuous times, with cold war and hot war; protests, and assassinations. The Selective Service System knew I was graduating and sent “greetings” from my friends and neighbors, ordering me to report for induction. Having lived with the draft for the decade, I was aware of this as a possible post-graduate path and had begun making plans for the Navy and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, located back in my hometown. When my induction was delayed beyond my 26th birthday, however, I instead spent the entire summer of 1970 finishing the text and drawings for my thesis in inorganic chemistry and preparing to defend my work.
I attended the graduate commencement of 1970 as a member of the band, but because I was performing, I did not walk across the stage with my fellow graduates. A winter commencement was taking place in December, but with a new job waiting for me at the Celanese Chemical Company, I couldn’t wait around for formalities. I turned in my thesis and, in the late summer of 1970, left Bloomington for Corpus Christi.
Memories of a lifetime
As the years passed, I only managed to take two trips back to “old IU,” but the stuff I learned there took me all over the world. The university’s influence on me never waned and I have always held dear the memories I made there. My life-long interest in opera was fostered by IU’s celebrated opera company and tradition in music and performance. Sadly, I only attended a few performances at the old East Hall before it burned down in 1968, taking the sets and costumes along with it. Seeing a show in the “new” Opera and Ballet Theatre – constructed in 1972 – is still on my bucket list.
Cherished memories from my grad school days include my first beer ever at Nick’s English Hut and the winning touchdown against Purdue. Seeing Simon and Garfunkel live. Those hot, humid nights with fireflies and the cold, icy mornings with earmuffs. Watching Bob Hope’s show outside before a big thunderstorm. Drawing a complete – but fortunately, temporary – blank during my orals exams and passing my first and last cumulative exams. And, love. A number of us got married for the first time. On one beautiful day late in October, four of us newlywed couples got together for a game of touch football. And it snowed.
A second chance
When 2020 came along I – being a nostalgia buff and fairly regular contributor to my graduate alma mater – was invited to join in the university’s 200th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of my own degree. Alumni representative Alyssa Osborne set everything up, but then COVID-19 made that reunion impossible until the next year. Then, in April 2021, Professor Caroline Jarrold, chair of the Indiana University Department of Chemistry, renewed the invitation and promised to personally bestow my doctoral hood. Such a deal!
Now, getting a hotel room in a college town during a double commencement for well over 10,000 grads can be a bit of a challenge. However, the university had planned on last-minute arrivals such as myself and reserved a room at the Grant Street Inn, one of several lovely historic Bloomington homes which had been preserved and converted into much-needed hospitality space.
I greatly enjoyed the trip down memory lane that the event afforded. Seeing the Indy 500 race cars on display in the airport reminded me of the time I gave out STP-branded hats in exchange for free 4th-Turn seats at the Indianapolis 500 when Al Unser won in 1970. At St. Elmo’s Steak House, I recalled how dinner for two with wine back then was around $10; now, it was about the same price as my monthly NASA fellowship stipend and teaching allowance combined. Gas cost 25 cents a gallon and a three-speed bicycle from Sears, Roebuck & Co. was $35. How I afforded my first of many motorcycles – purchased so I could park closer to the chemistry building – is still not clear.
The commencement ceremonies were, as usual, in the football stadium, but because of the pandemic, no spectators were allowed – only trustees, faculty and graduates. A closed-circuit, Zoom-style televising let proud parents, spouses and friends participate while social distancing.
Walking to my place in the stadium, I tread on the turf where the Hoosiers had won their 1967 Big Ten Championship and their second-ever trip to the Rose Bowl. I had just met Harry Gonso, one of the team’s greatest quarterbacks, in the robing area where he was decked out in trustee finery.
The procession began, and my name was called. After a long 51-year wait, I was walked across that stage and received my diploma case. Finally, the hood – trimmed in red and white (representing Indiana University’s traditional school colors) against a long stripe of Ph.D. blue – was in place around my neck.