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Honoring Graduates Without a Graduation Ceremony

The ingenuity of schools and parents and kids in the time of Coronavirus has been an inspiration for sure. At our house, where three children between the ages of 12 and 18 are spending six hours a day in Zoom classrooms — and Lord are we grateful to their schools for carrying on in the midst of a pandemic — I’ve been heartened to witness so many rites of passage still taking place, albeit virtually. Our kids have, in no particular order, been part of an online Field Day, a remote national debate tournament, a spring concert in which 38 middle schoolers in headphones performed three part harmony from 38 different bedrooms, and virtual awards ceremonies to mark the end of the year. I even heard of one school that put on a virtual junior-senior prom. Not sure how that would work, but it sounds like a hopeful effort. No matter how creative people have gotten in marking these important moments in these strange times, it’s hard not to wish that real, live, in-person graduations were going to take place this month and next, complete with “Pomp & Circumstance,” caps and gowns (or white dresses, as the tradition at my daughters’ school still dictates), inspirational speeches and proud parents filling high school gyms or college quads in celebration of their graduates.

Here, Julia and I share a few recommendations for those resilient graduates in your life who are making the most of this rite of passage, even if they’re collecting their diplomas in a drive-by ceremony.


This is one of our favorite pieces in the whole Reed Smythe catalogue. It makes the perfect gift for a godchild or nephew or niece about to embark on life in the real world. What better accoutrement for your first apartment bar?


We plan to start charm necklaces for a few of our favorite graduates and will look forward to adding to them for birthdays and other special occasions. We’re particularly partial to the verboten charm that wards off evil, and to the oak leaf, which a good friend recently told me is a symbol of strength, endurance, eternity, honor, liberty, hospitality, faith and virtue.


My husband Jon, gave a commencement address a few years ago, and several of the graduates at the ceremony have told him since that the only thing they remembered about the speech was his advice to send handwritten notes to people as often as they got the chance. We couldn’t agree more, and these handsome cards engraved with wild game and woodland animals make writing notes a pleasure.


Another great piece for the bar that is perfectly at home in a starter apartment (or even in the dorm!).


This gorgeous sterling silver objet by Helen Bransford is one of our go-to gifts for special occasions. It’s a particularly fitting gift to wish new graduates good luck and wishes fulfilled in the next big chapter of their lives.

*Commencement photo by Petyon Hoge

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