Simple (?) math

I was a member of the first graduating class of Pittston Area High School. The year was 1967. Subtract 1967 from 2015 and you get 48. Simple enough.
So why did the programs at Wednesday night’s graduation proclaim it as the 49th Commencement of Pittston Area High School?
Was it a typo?
At first blush, one might say yes. But it actually was the 49th Pittston Area Commencement.
How so?
Well, it comes down to mathematics, simple mathematics at that. And it points to a mistake most of us are prone to make.
See, basic subtraction does not apply when counting things like commencements. The issue is that they are not like birthdays, for example. Or wedding anniversaries. But we think they are.
The first Pittston Area commencement was just that, the first. So that very night, the answer to the question ‘How many commencements has Pittston Area had?’ was ‘One.’
That’s not so with a birth. We don’t call the day you were born your first birthday, even though, technically, it is. Your first birthday does not take place until you are one year old.
With me so far?
A newspaper mentor of mine, the late Richard B. “Dick” Cosgrove, taught me to write under the photo of a child on his or her birthday, that it was the child’s first birthday anniversary, or second, or third, and so on. But nobody, save Dick and I, I suspect, thinks of birthdays that way.
And that’s probably why we don’t think of commencements that way either.
So, yes this was the 49th Pittston Area commencement.
And next year, 2016, will be the 50th.
But we, the class of ’67, won’t celebrate our 50th anniversary until 2017. And that will be correct.
If all this makes your head hurt, don’t feel bad. It makes my head hurt too. But not half as much as the painful realization that it’s nearly 50 years since I graduated.

Ed Ackerman