The Graduate by
(87 Stories)

Prompted By Graduation

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With my grandfather at graduation in 1972, with Leverett House G Tower in the background.

After my dad died, my grandparents came in more often from Chicago. On one of his visits, my fifth-grade teacher invited my grandfather to talk to our class about his business.

I had hair; my grandfather didn't. So it was only fair to let him wear the mortarboard.

I was mortified. He had only a fifth-grade education—the same as my classmates and me. He was plain-spoken and not at all eloquent. And the worst thing was, he was a butcher! A successful one, to be sure—he owned three meat markets—but he wasn’t a lawyer or doctor or anything impressive.

But he mesmerized that class for an hour. He talked about the stockyards and the USDA grading system and everything that happens before meat shows up in your supermarket. (I suspect he skimmed over the slaughterhouse part.) To my surprise, the class was enthralled. There were lots of questions, even from classmates I thought would be bored. I came away with a new respect for my grandfather, and I am grateful that my teacher had the wisdom to bring him to class.

My grandfather put me through Harvard, and I never saw him prouder than at my graduation. So here’s to you, Grandpa. Part of that diploma belongs to you.

Profile photo of John Zussman John Zussman
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.

Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    John, this is a lovely tribute to your grandfather. Great that you have the picture of the two of you at commencement. Is that Quincy or Leverett behind you?

  2. John, loved this brief tale, your love comes through for this remarkable man. Not a word too many, not a word too few. And that great pic of you two really fills out the scene!

    BTW, SU: I thought it was Quincy, too!

  3. rosie says:

    It is amazing the things that our relatives do when we are young that we think will be embarrassing and that end up being a great blessing. Good for you, I am so glad you wrote this down and shared it with us.

  4. Lutz Braum says:

    Lovely how you captured the realization, at an early age, that EVERYONE has a story, no matter what their background or educational level. Which is what this site is all about!

  5. Constance says:

    Read the title and pictured your face superimposed on Dustin Hoffman’s body in the movie poster.

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