Our first child goes to college

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This weekend, my wife, my son, and I brought my daughter Katie to college to begin her first year. As with millions of parents before us, we ran the full gamut of emotions but ultimately I think it went well in that regard. We haven’t lost a daughter, we’ve gained a daughter in college.

We live in western upstate New York and the trip to Chicago is a bit shy of 600 miles (966 kilometers). Since we were going to have to travel on Friday anyway, we picked up our son after school on Thursday and did five hours of the drive that afternoon and evening. It’s tempting to drive, drive, drive, but when you have to stop and have dinner as well as find a place to stay, it best to stop for the night at a reasonable time. This also puts you in reasonable shape for the next day. Here’s a tip: if you don’t have some other sort of discount, always ask for the corporate rate. I did, and the desk clerk immediately knocked 10% off the cost of the room.

The car was nearly completely full but Katie did a masterful job of packing (and, the night before, unpacking and compacting). She was still concerned that she had overpacked but she felt much better as she saw the range of huge possessions some of the other kids had brought to school.

University of Chicago

Though check-in to the dorm and registration was not until 8 AM on Saturday, we got to the area about 12:30 in the afternoon on Friday. We benefited from the change of time zone that takes place in western Indiana, and so our 4 1/2 hour of driving looked like only 3 1/2 hours on the clock.

We wanted to get there early so we could take care of some administrative work: we set up Katie’s local bank account and took care of arrangements at two of the bookstores near the university. As we expected, this made Saturday much easier since it reduced the number of tasks which would have involved waiting in long lines on that day with many more students in town.

Katie had not been to the college since April when she and I went out for the admitted student program. Therefore once we took care of the business for the day, we walked around campus for a couple of hours. The weather on Friday was how it was the entire weekend: warm, sunny, and very encouraging for a great start to Katie’s college career.

We finally walked the several blocks to where we had parked the car and made our way north along Lakeshore Drive to our hotel in downtown Chicago. Dinner was a Berghoff’s, a Chicago landmark German restaurant. The food was simple and really very good.

Warning: the large menu near the front door is from the 1930’s so the costs for the food are in cents, not dollars. I enjoyed looking at the many paintings and photos from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition that was held in Chicago, and was a big part of Erik Larson’s book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America.

University of Chicago

Dorm check-in on Saturday began at 8:00 AM and we were there with a few minutes to spare. The University of Chicago is an urban school, though in the very nice Hyde Park neighborhood. In order to facilitate unloading, the police disallowed regular parking on the streets surrounding the dorms, and college staff directed cars. Though it looked chaotic at the start, by 8:35 we had all of Katie’s boxes in her room and the car safely moved to a nearby parking lot.

I worry about things like parking far in excess of their importance and their probable difficulty, so when it all works out easily I’m greatly relieved. I thought I did very well stress-wise on Saturday morning, though none of my family member agreed. In any case, I’ve been worse and they all concurred with that.

Once Katie took care of the room registration process, we helped her unpack and then she, her mother, and her brother went off to finish with details such as getting her id card. I stayed behind in her room to organize a bit but mainly to set up her computer. Her MacBook was working fine since she she’s been using it for a few weeks, but I set up the printer and the backup external harddrive for Time Machine. It went without a hitch and the family returned just as I was finishing up.

I really like the insurance that OS X’s Time Machine gives and I wanted Katie to have that for her papers and other school work. These days a 500 Gb external drive sells for around $100, so I think it is a good investment.

At 3:00 PM the activities shifted from those that were individual-centered to those that were class-wide. The Convocation was held in Rockefeller Chapel and consisted of welcomes and speeches from the President of the University, several deans, and a few faculty members. It was a wonderful ceremony because it both officially started the college academic career of the new students, but also brought the students, their parents, and college staff and faculty together into one community. My wife and I were both very much impressed by the unifying sentiments expressed and the strong message to the students about intellectual rigor and discovery.

University of Chicago

After the Convocation the parents and students processed out of the Chapel and across campus. As we reached one of the main gates of the university, the students split off from their families to the cheers of upper classmen, and they went off to have their class photo taken. The families moved on to a reception that was nicely supplied with food and drinks, but also helpful staff members with boxes of tissues.

University of Chicago

This was not our final farewell to our daughter for the weekend, so while we were certainly emotional during the day, our feelings got spread out and got incorporated with the happiness of her getting more and more settled.

This morning we saw Katie for about an hour before we left town. It’s going to be tough as we all adjust to this big change in our life, but we know it’s time and we know she’s going to be exactly where she should be. Besides, as I’ve said before, my business travel brings me through Chicago frequently enough so that I’ll see her fairly frequently.

For now, I’m just happy to hear all her stories of discovery and success as she begins this new phase of her life. My wife and I are indeed very proud parents of this remarkable young woman.

University of Chicago


  1. Wow, what a great success story she already is. You should be proud, Bob. Looks like you and mom gave her the best of the Sutor genes, now it’s up to her. Univ. of Chicago will certainly bend her brain, that’s for sure. But I’m sure she’s eager for the challenge. I hope you’ll update us over the next few years, if you can get a phone call in; she’s going to be really, really busy now.

  2. I thoroughly understand – we packed our youngest off to college a few weeks before you and went through all the same ritual and emotions.

    One of the benefits she will quickly realize from being at UofC is that she will not only be able to partake in school events, but she’s got the marvelous city of Chicago just outside the walls. Entertainment, art, culture, museums, music … heck, “Wicked” will probably continue playing there the entire time she’s in school …

    Best wishes to Katie and the rest of the Sutors …

  3. Congratulations on the college success story. You must be very proud of Katie ! I’ve been through the move several times with my two daughters and feel like a seasoned pro, but never as far away as the White City… (great book by the way !). Hope you are well. Tom

  4. These days a 500 Gb external drive sells for around $100, so I think it is a good investment.

    Good call, I have friends who lost their dissertations (some for their PHd) because of various reasons (virus, faulty disk, etc) – and have no backup. So they had to restart all over again.
    Very painful.

    Congratulations for your family. Hope your daughter will be doing very well in the college. Here’s cheering from Indonesia.

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