Congrats Grads: You Have Crossed The Bay


Another one of life’s milestones await 2023 graduates, whether the grads are completing pre-K, middle school, high school (a/k/a Independence Day), or two- and four-year colleges and universities.

Grads, you made it! Some lapped the field with highest honors. Others liked the comfort in the middle of the pack. And hopefully just a very few crawled across the line after catching a belt loop in the barbed wire obstacle course. Congrats to all!

Not so fast, though. Before diplomas are in hand, there’s a commencement exercise. Superintendents, principals, and school board chairs know the routine. Procession. Greetings. Speakers. Presentation of diplomas. Caps a-flyin’. Departure procession. Hello World!

A sage speaker may explain that the term commencement is both an end and a beginning. Wait, what? The class clown wonders if 12 more years of academic rigor are ahead if this is the beginning. Fear not, class clown. You have crossed the bay.

A bay in any body of water – lake, sea, or ocean – is a safe harbor. Waters are calmer. Breezes are lighter. Leave the safe harbor and the water is deeper, the speed of the wind is stronger, and the waves roll with a predictable cadence.

Out of the bay and into the ocean. Buck it up, grads. Rough waters lie ahead.

“You have crossed the bay. The ocean lies before you.”

Those words were spoken by William O. Reece, the father of a Hudson, Wisconsin baseball dad, who grew up on the family farm in Ledyard, Iowa. In May 1946, William graduated from high school as class valedictorian. There were just nine grads in the class of ’46. Bigger isn’t always better. In his commencement speech Reece stated, “You have crossed the bay. The ocean lies before you.” It was said to have inspired his classmates.

Inspire he did. And William led the way. He served in WWII. He pursued veterinary medicine in college and was a waiter in a girl’s dorm, thus assuring himself three square meals a day. Lucky William met his future wife at the dorm. He earned a PhD and completed an accomplished 38-year career as a professor in 1998, teaching 2,000 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students in his physiology course along the way. Perhaps best of all, Dr. Reece authored and edited several textbooks that are still used today. They are published in multiple languages.

Ending. Beginning. Bay. Ocean. It’s out there Class of 2023. Remember, there are plenty of opportunities in Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley when you return. St. Croix cannot maintain its position as among the fastest-growing counties without young adults starting families. Choosing to lead the way here helps make the region better than it already is.

Congratulations grads at all levels. “You have crossed the bay. The ocean lies before you.”