Millicent Hyman of Vineland woke up to the reality that she had reached a milestone in her journey toward a college degree that began decades ago on her family’s farm in Jamaica, where she and her nine siblings raised pigs and goats and grew sugar cane and bananas.
Along the way to Rutgers’ 257th commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 14, she immigrated to the United States, raised three college graduates and soldiered on as many late nights bled into bleary-eyed mornings tap-tap-tapping away on her laptop until her homework assignments were completed.
Hyman, 55, resplendent in a bright smile, scarlet gown and a stole in the green, gold and black of her native land’s flag, said the moment was made all the sweeter because it happened to fall on Mother’s Day.
“It’s even better for me because I feel like this is my Mother’s Day present to me,” she said, moments after giving the Rutgers ceremonial Red Lion Bell a mighty ring.
Moms—whether they were marking the completion of their studies that Sunday or being hailed by their children-turned-grads for providing steadfast support, sage counsel and an occasional kick in the pants—stole the show during the ceremony at SHI Stadium. From their seats on the floor of the football stadium or from their perches on the sidelines, they threatened to upstage the estimated 13,786 graduates from Rutgers-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
Emmy Award-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph received an honorary doctor of fine arts. Biochemist Dr. Katalin Karikó, who helped shield the world from COVID-19, received an honorary degree. So did Mark Angelson, the vice chair of the Rutgers Board of Governors and a member of President Joe Biden’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
Impressive, to be sure, but nothing compared to these assembled moms; just ask any undergrad who received a Venmo transfer from her moments before embarking on a night of debauchery at Old Queens Tavern.
Or ask Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway, who said to the moms, “The balloons, the banners, the music, all this fancy dress, the traffic jams, the parking confusion, the post-event meals where drama will likely be one of the main courses—all of this is for you.
“So, let’s get this event started properly and offer our heartiest appreciation to every mother, nana, madre, abuela, maan, daadee ma, mûqin, zumu, ima, savta, al’umu, and jida who is here today.”
He was directing his words to moms like Hyman.
A version of this content first appeared in TAPinto New Brunswick News.