Graduation prompts reflection

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

On Sat., May 3, an era will end for over a thousand SDSU seniors.

Hopefully, the sun will shine as the seniors walk through the flourescent lighting of Frost Arena, dressed in black cap and gown, ready to be congratulated by friends and family, instructors and staff members.

Graduation is coming: for over a thousand SDSU students, life will never be the same.

For one senior, the roar of the many family members and friends in the audience may come close to approximating something else-it may suggest a world he hopes to enter sometime soon.

For Tyrone Gross, perhaps the dull roar of the crowd will eventually morph into the roar of a roller coaster and the whoosh of wind one can feel blasting his face after one of the big trains zooms by.

You see, Ty Gross wants to design theme parks someday. And he’s got contacts in Disney who are helping him figure out how to get his foot in the door.

“I’m a rollercoaster buff. I have been for years,” Gross said. “Anything that has to do with that or technology related to that I find really interesting.”

Gross, perhaps, is typical. There are a few things which make him apprehensive about life after college but he is also excited to graduate.

But despite his commonality, Ty

Gross is his own, unique individual. He is just one of over a thousand unique individuals who will clutch their diplomas happily on Saturday. His story, in a way, is everyone’s story.

When Gross first came to SDSU after graduating from high school, he was, by his own admission, rather shy.

Gross had just graduated from high school and although he was from Volga, which is still very close to Brookings, he was still a bit apprehensive about finding friends.

But college changed everything for the guy who was a little bit shy in high school.

“I came to college and made a lot of friends and met a lot of different people and learned what I really wanted to do with my life,” Gross said.

What Gross wanted to do, it turns out, was be an manufacturing engineering technology major. He’s going to work here in Brookings next year, but then he plans on going on to graduate school in a few years to pursue his true dream of designing theme parks.

All of this from someone who thought he might want to be a mechanical engineering major when he first came to SDSU.

Gross also considered becoming a music education major. It speaks to another passion in his life, which may not seem to be something engineers would be terribly interested in.

Gross started out in high school chorus and is now active in many SDSU choral groups. Chief among these is the SDSU concert choir, though he also participates in the Statesmen and the SDSU men’s ensemble.

“I’m just not into that (enough to be a music ed major), but I wanted to keep it part of my lifestyle and still get in to engineering things,” Gross said.

The concert choir also contributed to two of Gross’s favorite memories.

Gross says he will recall the two trips to Europe that he took with the concert choir with fondness. On those two trips, he was able to see four other countries, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

On those trips, he got to see Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the windmills of Holland and a host of other things most college students can only dream about. Gross considers himself privileged to have seen them.

Gross says he also enjoyed singing with the SDSU men’s ensemble, a small group which was started recently by fellow graduate Brian Schmidt. Gross says he will recall singing with tight harmonies with the group for years to come.

But even though Gross may look back on his times at SDSU with a wistful fondness, he knows that he must look forward to the future.

He says what makes him most apprehensive about his post-college experience is the thought that he will be out of the college rhythms. He will be just another worker, struggling through a nine to five job every day.

“I’m considered an average, everyday worker now,” Gross said. “I won’t have the college lifestyle as something to look to.”

Gross says he will miss going to classes and being around his friends all of the time but he knows this comes with the territory of being a diploma-holding college graduate.

As he looks back on his college career, Gross offers some advice to incoming freshmen and underclassmen.

“Take advantage of all the experiences you can and learn from them,” Gross said.

For now, Gross says he will continue to look for ways to get his foot in the door of the theme park world. He will likely attend graduate school and pursue a degree in physics or sound engineering in a few years. Perhaps someday the dips and thrills of a rollercoaster you ride on will have been carefully engineered by Ty Gross.

But now, as graduation draws near and he realizes a portion of his life will soon draw to a close, he thinks back over his college career and cites the influences on his life.

“My parents have taught me to stick with it. My boss has taught me to never take things for granted and always learn as much as you can. My pastor has taught me to keep my head in the right frame of mind and not worry about things,” Gross said.

For a moment, after talking about his influences, he falls silent, as if pondering what his life will become, whether he will influence anyone in the manner that these people influenced him. After Saturday, he will find out.