Early yesterday, 21-year-old Kirstin Bonner lay in her Georgetown University hospital bed, rejoicing in the birth of her first baby, but thinking longingly of her classmates who were gathered a few miles away at Mount Vernon College's graduation.
Bonner knew that many of her friends were there, sitting in the shade of the Northwest D.C. college's copper beeches, listening to speaker Renee Poussaint from WJLA-TV, and singing for the last time as undergraduates of their alma mater.
Five hours later, depressed at missing graduation, Bonner walked slowly down the hospital corridor in terry cloth slippers and a green bathrobe to meet her husband, Kirk, a 27-year-old computer programmer.
Before Bonner knew what was happening, Kirk put a mortarboard on her head, threw a black robe around her shoulders and led her down the hall to the maternity ward waiting room.
There, with "Pomp and Circumstance" playing from a cassette tape player, and family and hospital staff looking on, Kirstin Elise Brown Bonner of Sterling was awarded a cum laude diploma in interior design and business.
"I don't know what to say, except thank you all very much," said a shocked and misty-eyed Bonner.
"That was the most fun degree I've ever conferred," said Mount Vernon College President Jane Coutant Evans, who wore full academic regalia, and was flanked by Judith Weiner, vice president for academic affairs, and Martha Firestine, assistant vice president for instruction.
After cutting a cake that said "Congratulations -- You Made It" in blue frosting, the graduation party dispersed down the corridor to share Bonner's other achievement: 8 lb., 15 1/2 oz. Adam Timothy Bonner, who had been delivered by cesarian section at 11:44 p.m. Wednesday.
Later, back in her hospital room, Bonner still wore her black robe, with bits of icing stuck to one sleeve. Looking on were her husband and her doctor, Charles Hill.
Bonner said she felt "great," and she held her newborn close.
"This is a first," said Hill, referring to the graduation ceremony. "But that's her most important diploma, right there in her arms."