Today, beginning at 2 p.m., 1,024 mortarboard-wearing students will cross the stage at the Show Me Center, indicating that they've completed a rigorous academic program and earned the right to a diploma.
The number of Southeast Missouri State University graduates this spring is an all-time record for a single commencement ceremony at the university, so it may take awhile for every diploma to be presented.
There likely will be recognition for the 22 undergraduates who will leave Southeast Missouri State University with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages.
They'll all listen to Dr. Charles Roadman II, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association, impart his knowledge of life after college to them.
When the ceremony is over, there will be congratulations from friends and family, tearful goodbyes and joyous parties.
And after that's all over, many of those 1,024 graduates will leave Cape Girardeau, perhaps for good. For the university, summer will have arrived.
After all, graduation marks the unofficial start of summer in Cape Girardeau. The city empties of more than 8,000 people. (Spring enrollment was 8,993. Of those, 662 attended classes at the university's satellite campuses in other cities.)
Yes, about 4,000 students will sign up for various summer courses, but some of that is over the Internet, and summer sessions are short.
No matter how you calculate it, Cape Girardeau will lose a significant portion of its population for three months. That's the time when residents, particularly business owners, see how much the university impacts life around here.
Students spend their money in countless ways.
They eat out.
They decorate their dorm rooms and apartments.
They need endless amounts of school supplies.
Of course, the downtown bar scene gets much more quiet during the summer as students of drinking age aren't there filling stools with friends.
But it isn't just the spending that locals miss when their student-neighbors depart for summer fun or jobs and internships elsewhere.
Cape Girardeau loses some of its hustle and bustle. There aren't the cultural opportunities brought to us by the school's arts community. The parks empty of students reading textbooks, kicking around soccer balls or just relaxing with friends. There are no college athletic events to enjoy.
Congratulations to all of those who graduated and are heading off to destinations unknown to continue with the rest of their lives.
To those who will be back come September, we'll miss you this summer.