When William L. Melvin eagerly took his seat yesterday on the campus lawn for his graduation from Georgetown University, he didn't expect to have photographers climbing past him, stepping on belongings, standing on chairs and elbowing their way past his fellow undergraduates.
Melvin, a 23-year-old history major from Arkansas, happened to be sitting three rows from another eager young grad, basketball star Patrick A. Ewing, who attracted almost as much media attention at his graduation as he did in leading Georgetown to 112 wins and a national basketball championship.
The seven-foot Ewing, 67-year-old entertainer Pearl Bailey, who sang a song she wrote for the occasion, and 1,358 other less famous but equally proud undergraduates gathered on a picture-perfect day for Georgetown's 186th commencement, with the two prominent grads dominating attention through much of the ceremony.
"Patrick deserves everything he gets, and everybody supports him," said Melvin, "but this ceremony is for all of us, and people should show more respect . . . . You spend $45,000 for a degree, and you'd like graduation to be a special day." He was referring to two dozen photographers and reporters who surrounded the area, moving chairs and positioning cameras for a better angle of Ewing, who sat flanked by his two graduating teammates, Ralph Dalton and Bill Martin.
At 11:28 a.m., when Ewing hoisted his black cap atop his head and placed his blue-and-white sash around his neck to mark his graduation, the cross fire of motorized cameras was loud enough so that nearby graduates laughed at the spectacle. Others yelled at photographers to sit down and stop blocking their view of the podium.
Georgetown public relations director Gary Krull said that Ewing and Bailey were besieged by requests for interviews but declined them Association draft and are expected to offer him a multimillion-dollar contract.
His classmate William Melvin will head to Peru to work for a Georgetown-sponsored relief program. Clare Lundstedt, a 21-year-old New Yorker, will enter Georgetown's medical school, with hopes of becoming a pediatric surgeon. "It's been a wonderful four years," Lundstedt said, "and then suddenly it hits you: The future starts tomorrow."