To Diploma, or not to Diploma?

The other day, a “viral” link showed up in my Facebook feed.  Quite honestly, I pass most of these “viral links” by, but given my (Catholic School) educational upbringing, this one intrigued me.

The viral link??  20 Signs You Grew-up in a Catholic School

It is well known to my regular readers (and those that know me well) that I did grow up in a Catholic School.  Twelve years of Catholic School (to be exact).  So, naturally I visited the link.

I found myself laughing at several of the “signs”!  I would say (other than the ones that spoke specific to the female gender) that most of the observations were familiar to me in some way, shape, or form.  They took me back to a different time and place and I must admit - I TRULY enjoyed reading through these observations.  Once I finished reading through the actual content, I started perusing the comments left by others.

One comment in particular resonated with me.  “Lisa” left a comment about a particular “Catholic School” experience that insulted her and her parents.

I don’t know this commenter whatsoever, and in no way do I wish to diminish or belittle her personal experience.  She is certainly entitled to feel and react to her circumstance in her own way and I feel badly for how her story ended.  The reason her comment resonated so much with me was that I had a nearly identical experience!

Let me take you back…

Academey of the Holy Angels, Richfield Minnesota - Front LawnIt was a warm summer afternoon in June of 1987 on the stunningly beautiful front lawn of the Academy of the Holy Angeles campus in Richfield, Minnesota. 

I was surrounded by my some of my closest friends and classmates – folks I had spent the better part of the past four years with.  We were on full formal display in front of our beloved family, friends, and the school staff who invested so much of their lives trying to educate us. 

This day represented the culmination of four years of hard work.  The finally to what we were repeatedly told were the “best years of our lives”.  

It was all about pomp, circumstance, and tradition.  Alphabetically, we were each called the front podium to be congratulated by a “receiving line” of school administration.  After a couple of handshakes and congratulations we were all handed a decorative blue binder that would “eventually” contain the physical manifestation, proof, and recognition for all that we have accomplished. 


Knowing full well that they had little left to use as consequences against us, in order to ensure our compliance, cooperation, and behavior at the graduation ceremony the school kept our diplomas in the office until after the ceremony.  Upon successful completion of the ceremony (without incident) we were told we could exchange our caps and gowns for our diplomas.

Once the ceremony was complete (and with only a minor act of civil disobedience – the obligatory ”tossing of the caps” which we were asked us not to do) we reunited with our families in the audience as High School Graduates, and began saying farewell to our friends and fellow classmates (now, officially “fellow alumni”).

Just a few of the actual photos of friends and family from that day!

FoF and Lisa FoF and Tony FoF and Grandma Betty FoF and Joe

Having fulfilled my obligations to family and friends, I climbed the front steps of the school, and made my way down that hallowed hall to the office (the same hall had walked so many times as a student – but now with high hopes that this would be my final trip). I finally reached the office - eager to FINALLY get my hands on my big pay-off.  I gave the office staff my cap and gown – and in exchange, they handed me a manila envelope with my name on it!

It’s here!  It’s finally here!!

Unpaid Tuition NoticeIn what could only be described as a “Gollum’esque” move, I squirreled my way out of the office with “my precious” in hand, clumsily opening the envelope.  Then, in a moment of shock, I stopped dead in my tracks.  I thought my eyes were deceiving me. 

There was NO DIPLOMA in the envelope!!

Contained in the space that my diploma SHOULD HAVE BEEN was a small note.  The note served to inform me that since my parents had not completed paying my tuition for the school year, that I would NOT be receiving any diploma until such time that any outstanding balance is paid in full.

I remember being slightly confused and pondered what this really meant.

Did my lackluster efforts (and subsequent grades) really “earn” me a diploma, or (as a last ditch effort to get rid of me once and for all) did my parents just offer to “buy” one for me?  Did I really graduate with my classmates from the class of ’87 or am I now to be considered a graduate of the class of ‘88?  If I am to be a graduate of the class of ’88, can I still be an “honorary” member of the class of ’87?  Which reunion do I visit?

Yearbook photo - No DiplomaIt was all too overwhelming for me… I knew that I did not have all the answers, so I began “asking” (some might have even identified it as “joking” or “bragging”) about my unsubstantiated status as a graduate with my fellow classmates!  Quite a number of fellow classmates got a chuckle out of the situation.

Before long, while making my way back out to break the “news” to my family, someone who had heard of my predicament stopped me and asked for a photograph.  I smiled, opened my empty diploma holder, and struck a pose.  Little did I know where that photo would end up.

I suppose you can imagine my surprise when (several months later) the annual yearbook came out (they were delivered post-graduation in order to include all the graduation hoopla), and there it was, recorded forever in posterity – for any and all to view (enjoy?) – with my empty diploma holder in hand!    


Diploma with (saved) unpaid tuition notice! Several weeks after the graduation ceremony, I returned to those hallowed halls of my Alma Mater with my parents’ tuition check in hand.  Quite proudly, I marched in and presented payment to the office staff.  Upon payment, I was unceremoniously presented an envelope.  This one contained my official high school diploma (and, yes… I did check before leaving!)

Even if it felt as if I walked into school and “bought” my diploma, I was FINALLY (and triumphantly) able to proclaim that I was, indeed, a high school graduate!! (Even if I had to walk in an pay for it!)

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