Commencement overview

Brown’s 244th Commencement set for May 27

April 27, 2012  |  Media Contact: Darlene Trew Crist |  401-863-2752
A media guide to the University’s three-day weekend follows here, with links to additional news releases about:
    Total degree count for Sunday: 2,443
    The Baccalaureate service Saturday Afternoon
    The Warren Alpert Medical School ceremony
    The Graduate School ceremony
    The Class of 2012 student orators
    Eight honorary doctorates
    Features on five doctoral dissertations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Thousands of graduates, alumni, faculty, and administrators will form a procession more than a mile long to mark Brown University’s 244th Commencement. The procession will begin at the Van Wickle Gates and proceed down College Hill on Sunday morning, May 27, 2012, capping a three-day Commencement and Reunion Weekend. Most events on Saturday and Sunday, May 26-27, are open to the public, although access to some venues is restricted due to space limitations. A summary of the weekend’s main events appears below. Additional information is available on the 2012 Commencement webpage; links to other sources of information will be added to this page as updates become available.

Editors: University-issued press credentials will be required for all reporters, photographers, videographers and other media representatives. To register for credentials, call Courtney Coelho in the Office of Media Relations at 401-863-2476 or send e-mail to Media_Relations@brown.edu. The reporter’s name, organization, telephone, and e-mail address are required. Requests for credentials must be made by 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 23. Credentials will be available Thursday morning, May 24, at the Office of Media Relations, 71 George St.

In advance of the Commencement ceremonies on Sunday morning, most streets near campus will be designated one-way; many will be closed to vehicles. Access for live trucks and other vehicles must be scheduled in advance. Space for media will be reserved on the College Green, and access to the audio signal will be provided. Credentials will be required for access to the press area.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Commencement Forums

For 42 years, Commencement Forums have offered insight, expertise, and discussion on topics across a variety of fields. Four sessions of forums are scheduled for Saturday May 26. The forum topics run the gamut from Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson’s presentation on “How do we educate?” to a panel discussion comprised of those who risked their careers to unveil wrongdoing, titled “Whistleblowers: The Morality and Consequences of doing the Right Thing,” to “HIV at 30: Lessons Learned, Challenges for the Future,” presented by Dr. Sandra Nusinoff Lehrman, global director of scientific affairs for infectious diseases/virology at Merck & Co. Inc. A complete list will be available.

Baccalaureate procession – 1:45 p.m.

The first formal academic procession of the weekend begins at 1:45 p.m., as graduating seniors make their way from the College Green to the First Baptist Meeting House.

Baccalaureate service – 2:30 p.m.
The First Baptist Meeting House

Ruth J. Simmons, the 18th president of Brown University, will deliver the 2012 Baccalaureate address.

Brown’s Baccalaureate tradition derives from the immense range of religious, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and musical traditions present within the campus community. The ceremony includes rituals, readings, and prayers from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and animist traditions, as well as choral and instrumental music, the Chinese lion dance, poetry, dance, and Taiko and Senegalese drumming. The service begins at 2:30 p.m. Because the First Baptist Meeting House can accommodate only the graduating class, the service will be simulcast for family and friends, who can watch it on the College Green, in the Salomon Center for Teaching, and in Sayles Hall.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Commencement procession – 9:45 a.m.
The Van Wickle Gates

The University’s ceremonial Van Wickle Gates open twice a year: in the fall as new students enter campus and in the spring as graduates depart for the larger world beyond campus. The procession begins at 9:45 a.m. at the Van Wickle Gates.

The Graduate School Convocation – 10:15 a.m.
Lincoln Field

Dean of the Graduate School Peter M. Weber will confer advanced degrees at the Graduate School Convocation, beginning at 10:15 a.m. on Lincoln Field. The convocation includes a Commencement address by a student elected by the Graduate Student Council and the presentation of the Horace Mann Medal, first awarded in 2003, when the Graduate School celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Christopher Kenneth Geggie, who will receive the Master of Arts in classics, is this year’s Graduate Student Orator. Geggie was selected by the Graduate Student Council’s nominations committee to deliver an address titled “Nothing Without Great Labor.”

Alpert Medical School Convocation – 11:15 a.m.
First Unitarian Church

Dr. Edward J. Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences, will preside over the 38th Commencement of the Alpert Medical School. Wing will administer the Physician’s Oath, a version of the Hippocratic Oath prepared by the M.D. Class of 1975, the school’s first graduating class. The convocation, held in the First Unitarian Church, will feature three addresses:

  • Dr. Joseph B. Martin, former dean of Harvard Medical School, currently the Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology there and a director of the Warren Alpert Foundation, will give the guest address titled “Bend the Curve,” about physicians’ responsibility to participate in the inevitable changes in health care and biomedical research in the 21st century;
  • Dr. Kelly Ann McGarry, associate professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School, will deliver the faculty address titled “Caring and Connecting,” about the essential elements for a satisfying career;
  • Kumar Vasudevan ’08, M.D.’12, will present the student oration titled “Let Me Remind You ...,” in which he will highlight the distinctive skills and perspectives medical students bring to patient care.

College Ceremony – 12:10 p.m.
First Baptist Meeting House

Since 1776, all but two Brown University Commencements have been held in the First Baptist Meeting House. In 2006, when the graduating class had grown too large to be safely accommodated, the students voted to preserve the tradition by holding a portion of the Commencement ceremony on the church grounds. President Ruth J. Simmons greets the class, delivers brief remarks, and confers degrees on the church grounds. The balance of the ceremony takes place on the College Green.

University Convocation – 12:45 p.m.
The College Green

The Commencement procession returns to the College Green, where the University Convocation begins. The University Convocation includes:

Student orators

Brown has a long-standing tradition of drawing from its student body to speak during the Commencement ceremony. Two members of the graduating class are chosen by a committee of students, faculty, and administrators to deliver orations at Commencement. This year’s orators, Leor Shtull-Leber and Tara Kane Prendergast, were selected from a pool of 240 applicants.

  • Leor Shtull-Leber, a cognitive science concentrator, will present an oration titled “Stepping Stones,” in which she will use the analogy of crossing a river to talk about the continuum from inexperience to expertise.
  • Tara Kane Prendergast, a history concentrator, will appeal to her classmates to think critically about their place in the world and what it means to be a global citizen in her oration, “How Shall We Be?”

Honorary degrees

Honorary degrees are voted by the Board of Fellows of the Brown Corporation and conferred on the College Green. This year, the University will honor eight persons with honorary doctorates:

  • Carolyn Bertozzi, chemist and immunologist; Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)
  • Viola Davis, actress; Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.)
  • John Lewis, civil rights leader and U.S. representative; Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
  • Marilynne Robinson, writer and educator; Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)
  • Sebastian Ruth, musician and educator; Doctor of Music (Mus.D.)
  • Diane Sawyer, broadcast journalist; Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)
  • Gene Sharp, scholar of nonviolent change; Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.), and
  • Wei Yang, engineer, Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)

Awarding of diplomas

Graduating seniors receive their diplomas at departmental ceremonies immediately following the University Convocation. There are more than 50 departmental ceremonies. Location information, including a map and key, is printed in the Commencement program.

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.