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Celebrate honorary graduates
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My friend, Coleen Ivey, received an honorary diploma from Gainesville High School recently. At 88, she has about 70 years seniority on most high school seniors.

In the energy department, I would say they rank about even. Coleen Ivey is a relentless ball of energy.

There was not a speech for the honorary grads, which included Sen. Butch Miller and retired educator John Davis. But what would you say to an 88-year-old graduate? I decided I would try.

Today, my friends, I look at this most interesting class. An educator turned bus line owner, a car dealer turned senator and you, a beautiful woman.

As you accept this diploma, do so knowing this is just the beginning. What you do with the honorary education that comes with it is up to you.

At 88, many doors will open for you, provided you encounter polite gentlemen who know opening a door for a lady is always the right thing to do.

Perhaps you will embark on your senior trip. If you do, allow me to offer a little advice.

Swimwear: If your senior trip takes you to the beach, opt for the one-piece swimsuit.

I realize the temptation to select that flashy bikini is strong with the newfound freedom of post-secondary life. I make this plea, however, as a matter of civil order.

In the days of the singing duo Jan and Dean, there were two girls for every boy. In your current era, the number is somewhere north of three girls for every boy.

Your wearing a bikini could cause profound medical reactions of the male heart and make that ratio even higher.

Tattoos: I know there is a strong temptation to make a bold statement by getting a tattoo. Don’t.

Just as I predicted Oprah was just a flash in the pan, I believe tattoos are on their way out. You don’t want to wake up five years from now and be out of style at 93.

If you find the urge irresistible, don’t get an image of a pop star, such as Justin Bieber. We can only hope he is on the way out.

Fast cars: There is also a tendency among new graduates to want a fast car.

As the highway safety director for this state, let me discourage this. An attractive woman like you in a shiny car could be a distraction for others on our roads. Don’t do it.

Strong drink: For you, at 88, to outdo college kids in a beer-drinking contest would just be bad form.

We all know who would win, so let’s just keep it that way.

Beachside challenges: Parasailing or jumping from a hotel balcony into a pool might lead less experienced youngsters to emulate your prowess. Once again, you are the leader.

The world awaits you, my dear. The world is your oyster and you are certainly the pearl. You shine and sparkle as you tackle the world and quizzically ask what your 89th year has in store for you.

This graduation is just the beginning and a long line of cheerleaders will stand on the sidelines awaiting your next move.

Here’s to a bright future, Coleen Ivey.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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