37 years after earning degree, Simmons grad takes the walk

Helen G. Drinan (left), the president of Simmons College, congratulated Faith Gobuty of Palo Alto, a 1973 graduate. Helen G. Drinan (left), the president of Simmons College, congratulated Faith Gobuty of Palo Alto, a 1973 graduate. (John Gillooly for The Boston Globe)
By Stefanie Geisler
Globe Correspondent / May 15, 2010

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Some things really are better late than never. Just ask Faith Gobuty.

Although she received her bachelor’s degree from Simmons College 37 years ago, Gobuty finished school early and did not get to attend commencement, until yesterday morning.

In a surprise orchestrated by her husband, David, Gobuty joined more than 500 Simmons graduates as they walked across the stage at the Bank of America Pavilion.

“It felt like it was closure,’’ Gobuty, a retired high school teacher from Palo Alto, Calif., said by telephone after the ceremony, at which poet Elizabeth Alexander spoke.

“When they were giving the speeches, I thought, ‘Well, did I do anything with this degree?’ And then I thought: ‘Yeah, I did. I taught thousands of students,’ ’’ Gobuty said. “For me, it was just a life cycle that I was glad to be able to complete.’’

Gobuty graduated from Simmons in January 1973 and immediately joined David, her high school sweetheart, in California. They married in April 1973. She did not make it back to Boston for her graduation ceremony that spring.

“Our lives became immediately complicated, and one thing led to another,’’ David Gobuty said.

But Faith Gobuty watched as her son and daughter donned their own caps and gowns years later, and she never forgot what she missed out on.

Last December, David contacted Simmons and asked whether his wife could join this year’s graduating class. “It took some time for the college to realize it wasn’t a hoax,’’ he said.

College president Helen G. Drinan agreed to the plan in January, and David has been making secret plans ever since. When everything was set, he asked his wife to clear four days in May for what he called a special event.

Since she often joins him on business-related trips, she did not think much of it at first. But he would not tell her where they were going, making her suspicious — and making packing for the trip a little difficult, she said.

When they switched planes in Chicago, her suspicions grew stronger. “I saw we were connecting to Boston,’’ she said. “Then I started to put things together.’’

The school gave Gobuty flowers and a cap and gown. She was the first woman in her family to graduate from college.

“It was really beautiful, because the whole graduating class got up and clapped for me and screamed,’’ she said. “It just made me cry.’’

Simmons awarded 530 bachelor’s degrees yesterday. It presented honorary degrees to Alexander; Dr. Beverly Malone, chief executive officer of the National League for Nursing; Roslyn Jaffe, cofounder of Dress Barn; Brewster Kahle, computer scientist; Frances Moore Lappe, author and social activist; and Marion Walter, former Simmons mathematics professor.

Other commencements

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston campus Seaport World Trade Center.

Expected graduates: 531.

Speaker: Richard E. Griffin, founder of Critical Care Systems Inc.

Degrees: Bachelor of science, bachelor of science in nursing, bachelor of science in dental hygiene, bachelor of science in radiologic science, master of science, master of applied natural products, master in physician assistant studies, doctor of pharmacy, PhD, post baccalaureate.

Honorary degree: Griffin

Boston Conservatory Back Bay Events Center

Speakers: Emanuel Azenberg, Broadway producer; Bruce Marks, former artistic director of the Boston Ballet.

Expected graduates: 175.

Degrees: bachelor of music, bachelor of fine arts, master of music.

Honorary degrees: Azenberg and Marks.

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