Celebrating Their Commencements, 50 Years Apart

Two generations of Greyhounds share their Loyola experience

By Brigid Darragh  |  Photos by Brigid Darragh

On May 17, Christina Fisher will join the Class of 2014 in walking across the stage during Loyola’s Commencement exercises to receive her diploma and shake Fr. Linnane’s hand.

Her family will be in attendance, watching proudly and applauding from their seats.

Among those present to celebrate Christina’s Commencement is her grandfather, Jim Ellison, who will be honored as a Golden Greyhound to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his graduation just two weeks later.

For Fisher and Ellison, 2014 is a special year in their Loyola careers.

Christina Fisher, '14, and her grandfather, Jim Ellison, '64, in front of the Humanities Center.

Christina Fisher, ’14, and her grandfather, Jim Ellison, ’64, will celebrate her Commencement and his induction as a Golden Greyhound this month.

Their experiences and education, while very different, share a common thread that has created a special bond between them.

“When my granddaughter Christina told me her first choice for college was Loyola, I was quite happy, particularly since each of my children had chosen different colleges,” said Ellison, whose children attended the University of Maryland.

Fisher is the eldest of his six grandchildren, and when it came to applying to college, she says Loyola was her first choice. She applied early and was thrilled to hear she had been accepted.

She says she and Poppop have a mutual understanding thanks to their shared college experience of “the small school environment as well as a liberal arts education,” and they agree the Jesuits as educators and as a presence on campus are incredibly supportive of the students, both academically and personally.

The two spoke of the Jesuits making a real difference in their college experience, compared to family members who attended bigger state schools.

“There was a large number of Jesuits serving in both administrative and teaching positions, and since the student body was less than 1,000 students, we got to know and be close to many of them,” Ellison remembers.

But Ellison, who graduated from Loyola in 1964 with a B.S. in English, says the Loyola his granddaughter attends is very different than the “streetcar college” he attended…

“Loyola today seems to be changing so fast that even recent grads can notice change. But after 50 years, it is really striking,” he says.

Ellison and his fellow classmates were largely commuters who used Baltimore City public transportation to get to and from campus.

He described his days at Loyola, when the student body was entirely male and students wore coats and ties to class; when attendance at First Friday Mass was not optional; when required course loads could run as high as 22 credits a semester; when enrollment in ROTC was mandatory for the first two years, and students performed drills on Wednesday afternoons on what is now Geppi-Aikens Field.

Fr. Vincent Beatty, S.J., for whom Beatty Hall is named, was the college president, and the Jesuits resided in what is now the Humanities Center.

But the course requirements and the dress code aren’t the only things that differ from the Loyola of today.

The world Loyola was sending its graduates out into was a very different place, Ellison says.

Ellison reflected on the political and cultural climate of the 1960s when he was graduating from Loyola, explaining his senior year was a year of change and transition for this country as well as for the graduates: Kennedy was assassinated; his colleagues were being drafted for what was soon to become the Vietnam War; and the Beatles were invading the United States.

Still, to me it feels good to see these old Gothic buildings and the original doors [on the Humanities Center],” he said, gazing past his granddaughter to the stone buildings that surround the Quad.

“Some things haven’t changed at all. Loyola is still a good college; the people here are helpful and supportive. The core values are the same.”

Ellison pointed to the place on the Quad where his own Commencement exercises took place on a spring day in 1964 between two large trees. John Kenneth Galbraith delivered the keynote address that day as parents sat outside in folding chairs with the members of the graduating class.

Ellison revisits the place on the Quad where he received his diploma from Loyola in 1964.

Ellison revisits the place on the Quad where he received his diploma from Loyola in 1964.

Ellison says he is eager to watch his granddaughter graduate at Baltimore Arena and to celebrate her accomplishments later this month.

Fisher is receiving a bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in information systems. She has accepted a job in the strategic operations department at M&T Bank for their Management Development Program.

During her four years at Loyola, she has taken full advantage of all Loyola offers. She was a member of the rowing team her first year; she studied abroad in Newcastle, England, her junior year; and she spent the last year interning at OneMain Financial, a division of Citigroup.

Fisher credits Loyola with her internship opportunity—and the internship with preparing her for her next step.

“I had many professors whom I enjoyed throughout my college career in the marketing and information systems departments, teachers who encouraged students to do well no matter what their major was,” Fisher says.

She believes the attention, support, and direction she received at Loyola have made all the difference.

“Loyola has helped me develop an all-around education,” she says.

“Christina and her classmates are really blessed to be attending Loyola today. She was so fortunate to be exposed to sports and to be able to study abroad and to have all the wonderful facilities now available on campus,” her grandfather said.

Following his own graduation, Ellison accepted a job with the federal government, where he went on to enjoy a long and fulfilling career. He says his Loyola education “led me to a rewarding career and helped me through life. I hope it does the same for Christina and her classmates.”

Following May 17, Fisher said she looks forward to living in Baltimore City and her new position at M&T Bank. “And not having homework is a plus,” she added with a smile.

To read more stories about this year’s Graduating Greyhounds, visit our 2014 Commencement page.

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