Do you like my hat?

Go, dog. Go!

The childrens' book "Go, Dog. Go!" The cover is orange, white, and green, and a dog is driving a car.There’s a nutty kids’ book by the author P.D. Eastman called Go, Dog. Go! in which much of the plot revolves around dogs in cars wearing hats. Ultimately they wind up on top of a tree — a sort of Woodstock in the sky for dogs wearing hats. A typical exchange of dialogue goes like this:



“Do you like my hat?”

“I do not.”



Pretty quick read. And I think of it every time there’s a university ceremony that requires the faculty to don the academic finery of their PhD-granting institutions. The kaleidoscope of colorful, flowing fabric and unusual headgear is our college version of the red carpet. “What school are you wearing?” And believe me, if you’ve ever agreed to help “robe” the faculty before such an event (I was a one-and-done volunteer), you understand why such people have PhDs. Those things are complicated! Mostly it’s the sash that will trip you up. There are buttonholes and elastic loops and mysterious folds that defy earthly logic. But it’s the puffy hats that always get me. Whose idea was that?

A fine day for a parade

Corie Pauling, ’93, is president of the U-M Alumni Assn. She holds a degree in industrial and operations engineering. (Image: D. Holdship.)

Santa J. Ono’s inauguration as U-M’s 15th president occurred on a cold and sunny March day, a true blessing in the state of Michigan. In addition to the requisite flag ceremonies and tuba stylings of the Michigan Marching Band, members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization staged a protest regarding unfair labor practices directly in the path of the planned procession route. Exactly as it should be.

I joined members of the Michigan News team staffing the media check-in table as the lobby at Hill Auditorium buzzed with activity. One woman had lost her phone (our crew tracked it down). A slew of reporters and photographers — all from The Michigan Daily — made off with most of our press badges. One of my news colleagues — a man born to wear a trenchcoat and aviator shades — was basically recruited by local law enforcement to act as undercover security. (Once I saw this same guy pull a sandwich in a baggie from his breast suit pocket during another such event. Totally stealth.)


Mary Sue Coleman, not wearing a hat. (Image: Jared Wadley.)

When President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman walked past our table,  my colleague called out, “Are you coming back?” Coleman just threw her head back and laughed, reminding us how much we missed her. One of my favorite Ross professors noted she was pleased her alma mater, Northwestern, favors the color purple. “Imagine choosing your PhD based on the robe you’ll have to wear!” Another had an orange puffy jacket underneath her pumpkin-colored ensemble. My big celebrity sighting of the day was the new president of the Alumni Assn., Corie Pauling, ’93. She’s very tall! And I think I freaked her out when I asked to take her photo.

Cynics may scratch their heads and wonder what all the fanfare is about. President Ono has been here since October, so what’s the big deal? I can only speak for myself. The energy is high, the camaraderie is palpable, and the promise of a new era uplifts the community. Symposia, receptions, processions, and protests remind us that we are all in this together — not only as citizens of the U-M community but of the world.

If nothing else, it reminds those of us who never sought a PhD that we made the right decision. The sash alone would have broken me. And don’t get me started on the hats.

(Lead image: Michigan Photography.)



  1. Jay Gerak - '84 (A.B., History) '87 JD

    Debbie –

    Thanks for painting the (very colorful) picture for those of us not in attendance. It sounds like it was a lot of fun!



    • Deborah Holdship

      I’m a sucker for pageantry, Jay! It started with that spring ceremony at the Mary statue back in the day!


  2. Richard Weston - DrPH 1994

    Thank you for such a colorful description! I still hope for an occasion to wear my brightly colored Michigan School of Public Health doctoral hood, which sadly arrived after I received the Dr.P.H. diploma (1994) and is still languishing in my closet.


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