Earlier this year, I traveled across the country to Los Angeles, where I was able to watch my oldest niece Aimée Rathlé graduate from Occidental College. The first graduation of a close family member and my lil’ Aimée! Fun fact about this school… not only is it one of the country’s most beautiful college campuses (“Clueless” was filmed there!) but our 44th president, Mr. Barack Obama, was a student for two years at Oxy before he transferred to Columbia in NYC.
Aimée took us around her campus, showing us her favorite lunch spots underneath the blooming jacaranda trees (the most beautiful trees with lavender colored flowers), Obama’s old dorm, and where all her history and politics classes were held. Her school was a stark difference to my alma mater, LSU. This college, placed in the heart of the city of angels, was intimate and exclusive-- a real liberal arts-y kind of vibe. A perfect match for my creative and bright niece.
During the graduation ceremony, one of Obama’s favorite professors was given an honorary reward. Dr. Roger Boesche inspired the young Obama to pursue a career in politics after he took one of the professor’s infamous classes. Dr. Boesche had even written on one of Obama’s old papers saying, “Barry-- you are bright but need to work harder to get an ‘A.’” Obama’s first grade on a paper was a ‘B’! Then he never saw that grade again!
A few days after graduation, I learned that Dr. Boesche had died from rheumatoid arthritis-- an illness he had been battling his entire life. I might not have known him but knowing of him, and his tremendous influence on so many bright young students, made me sad that so many others lost out on the opportunity to learn from a man like him.
Of course I cried during the ceremony! Seeing my lil’ Aimée receive her diploma after four years of extraneous work and listening to the testimonies of Obama’s favorite professor made me appreciate the power and importance of education.
Not only was the graduation itself a memorable experience, but seeing my distant family all come together to celebrate the achievements of my niece was incredibly heartwarming. As per Rathlé tradition… we had to eat well! All of the family lunches and dinners were full of laughs and stories while we savored the exquisite and worldly tastes that the LA cuisine has to offer.
As my lil’ Aimée makes her big move in August to Los Angeles and starts up a new chapter in her life, I’ll have more of an excuse to travel westside to visit her and-- of course-- catch those Cali rays in Malibu! I love her more than she could ever know!