Posted May 1, 2018

For these Temple students, Commencement is a family affair

Father and daughter Jamaica and Jay Manning will walk together at this year’s Commencement ceremony.

Jamaica and Jay Manning
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
Father-daughter duo Jamaica and Jay Manning will walk together at Commencement in May.

Commencement is a significant achievement for an individual, marking hard work, perseverance and commitment. When you add family into the mix, it’s even more special.

At this year’s Commencement, father and daughter Craig and Juliana Manning will collect their degrees together. 

Juliana, better known as Jay, will graduate as a dual major in linguistics with a focus in French and English creative writing with a focus in fiction. Craig, known to family and friends as Jamaica, will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Arts with a concentration in cinematography. 

Jamaica was born on the island, thus his nickname, and then moved to New York, where he lived on Staten Island. When his wife joined the military, the couple relocated to Germany for a year and a half, followed by four and a half years in Italy and four years in England before moving back to the United States and settling in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Jay was born when the Mannings were stationed in Italy, where her proclivity for linguistics first developed. 

“You would use two or three languages in a sentence,” Jay’s mother Johanny once told her, reflecting on their early days in Italy. 

The linguistics aficionado now speaks Spanish, Latin, Italian and French.

Following in her mom’s footsteps, Jay enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves under the Corps of Engineers in 2014. As an engineer, she drives military vehicles and has also done communications and administrative work in the field. She was on track for officer candidacy but decided to follow her passion for writing and linguistics instead.

For her dad, the road to Commencement was a little longer, wrought with the challenges that come with with studying film, producing and directing abroad.

“I’ve attended about four or five different colleges to get to this point,” Jamaica said. “Living overseas, you have limited choices and classes.”

Jamaica accumulated course credits as he moved from country to country with his wife and children—a testament to his perseverance and commitment. 

Temple wasn’t the first academic experience the father and daughter shared. When the Manning family relocated back to the United States in 2015, Jamaica and Jay attended Bucks County Community College, where they both received their associate’s degrees before transferring to Temple. The two never took a class together at Bucks or Temple, having decided their (friendly) competitiveness would likely be a distraction. 

With Commencement around the corner, Jay looked back over her time at Temple and shared her favorite experience, a study abroad program in France. 

“I could barely order food, and by the time I left, I was having conversations with people, and I could get jokes,” she said. “When you can get jokes, that’s the pinnacle.”

For Jamaica, memorable experiences came in the form of mentors that helped him along the way and finally taking classes that support his passion such as Moving Camera, Videography and Still Photography for Filmmakers.

“One professor that always stands out to me is Leann Erickson,” he said, explaining how the professor of film and video production helped him determine the right track and courses to get where he is now. “She took the time to talk to me, and that I’ll always remember.”

After graduation, Jamaica plans to slowly transition into business ownership in film and production. For Jay, the traveling continues as she plans to teach English abroad—her first stop is Japan. 

Weighing in on the significance of graduating together, Jay expressed pride in her father’s accomplishments. “It’s a big moment, because he’s been working at it for a really long time,” she said.

For Jamaica, it was the realization that his family in the audience will hear his and Jay’s names announced one after the other that makes the event so significant. He hopes that moment will be an inspiration for his younger children, Katherine, 18, Alexander, 15, and David, 5.

—Nicole Quaste