It's 5:30 in the morning on the Sunday of DePaul's commencement weekend. While many faculty, staff and soon-to-be graduates are still snoozing, Lydia Marsette has just arrived at Allstate Arena to begin preparing for the final day of ceremonies. She lines up the robes for each member of the academic procession, plugs in her portable clothes steamer and gets to work.
Since the 1990s, Marsette, now an events and office manager for the Office of Graduate Admission, has volunteered her time at DePaul's commencement ceremonies each spring. From guest speakers including CEOs, actors, composers and poets to honorary degree recipients to the university's own president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., Marsette makes sure the special guests sitting on stage are wrinkle-free, robed and know where they need to be before the procession begins.
"It's a job no one really thinks of or wants to do, for that matter," she laughs. "But I love it! One year I was asked to step in last minute and the job has just stuck. I enjoy being behind the scenes and I've gotten to meet some interesting people along with way. It's a long weekend, but it goes by so quickly."
Though steaming is Marsette's main role during the commencement ceremonies, over the years she also has been on the front line for crowd control, helped with procession organization and leading, and even assisted a pregnant student who went into labor during the ceremony.
"Luckily we got her to the ambulance before the baby came," Marsette recalls. "That definitely is one of the more memorable days on the job. It also goes to show just how much this day means to our students - to be that pregnant and still want to walk across the stage. I love being able to play a small part in an event that is so special to our students and their families."
Marsette's DePaul career began in the early 1980s. From positions in the financial aid office to the registrar's office to Enrollment Management and Marketing, Marsette has spent 30 of the last 36 years helping the university grow. Her current position, however, is the one she feels has been the most rewarding.
"To be a member of the Admissions team and also have a role in commencement is truly something special," Marsette says. "Not many people get to complete that circle. Every year I get to see students whom we helped admit to the university take the final steps of their academic careers. I get to see them reach the goal they set for themselves when they first walked into our office. It's just incredible."