<p>Chief Marshal Elizabeth Z. Chace, a 1959 alumna, will lead the Brown University Commencement procession — at least 6,000 people — down College Hill on Sunday, May 24, 2009. The procession, one of the nation's largest and most colorful academic pageants, caps the University’s three day Commencement/Reunion Weekend.</p>

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On Sunday morning, May 24, 2009, Chief Marshal Elizabeth Z. Chace, a 1959 alumna and member of the University’s Board of Fellows, will lead a mile-long procession of degree candidates, faculty, senior administrators, and reunion alumni — more than 6,000 people in all — out through the ceremonial Van Wickle Gates and down College Hill. That Commencement Procession, one of the nation’s largest, oldest, and most colorful academic pageants, will cap a three-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend on the Brown campus.

Each Brown graduating class takes two symbolic walks through the Van Wickle Gates: first as a newly matriculated first-year class entering the University community and then as graduating seniors heading for the world beyond College Hill.

After more than two hours of marching, all degree candidates will have settled into one of three ceremonies:

  • graduate students will gather at 10:30 a.m. on Lincoln Field, where Sheila Bonde, dean of the Graduate School, will preside;
  • medical students will gather at 11:15 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church for their degree ceremony and the administration of the Physician’s Oath. Edward Wing, M.D., dean of medicine and biological sciences, will officiate at his first Commencement as dean;
  • undergraduates will congregate by 12:10 p.m. on the grounds of the First Baptist Church in America, honoring a centuries-old tradition. The Meeting House of the First Baptist Church was completed in 1775 “for the Publick Worship of Almighty God, and also for holding Commencement in.” Significant portions of Brown Commencements have been held there ever since.

After a short ceremony, including the National Anthem, an invocation, and remarks from President Simmons, the undergraduates will return to The College Green for the balance of the Commencement exercises.

Additional information is available at the Commencement Web site.

The University Ceremony

By 12:45 p.m., the undergraduates will have found their way to The College Green for the University Ceremony and the ritual conferral of a symbolic degree to one member of each degree category. In all, President Simmons will deliver formal Latin salutations and confer symbolic degrees on approximately 2,000 candidates, from bachelor’s and master’s degrees to the terminal degrees, M.D. and Ph.D., as well as seven honorary doctorates and dozens of master’s degrees ad eundem. Flags from 70 nations, representing the home countries of the Class of 2009, will be flown on The College Green during the ceremony.

The University Ceremony will include:

  • senior orations, delivered by two graduating seniors;
  • the presentation of symbolic degrees to representatives of all degree categories;
  • the conferral of seven honorary degrees, with citations in English and Latin; and
  • the conferring of Master of Arts ad eundem degrees to regular faculty who hold no other Brown degree and have been at the University for at least one academic year. (The ad eundem degrees will be presented in University Hall immediately following the University Ceremony.)

Storm Plan

The Commencement Procession will be cancelled only in the event of severe storm conditions. If the storm plan is in effect, a yellow pennant will be flown from the flagpole on The College Green, and announcements will be placed on the University’s home page and on the Commencement office telephone: (401) 863-2474.

If the storm plan is in effect, the University Ceremony will not be held. The symbolic presentation of bachelor’s degrees and honorary degrees will take place in the Pizzitola Sports Center, in an abbreviated version of the College Ceremony. The Proceedings from Pizzitola will be simulcast for parents and guests in the Salomon Center for Teaching, in Sayles Hall, in Meehan Auditorium, and on The College Green. Undergraduates will receive their diplomas at their assigned locations following the ceremony in Pizzitola.

Ceremonies for the Graduate School and Alpert Medical School will be held in their respective locations, which are tented or indoors.


Nearly  5,000 Brown graduates, friends and family are expected to return to campus for reunion celebrations during the weekend. All University graduates are welcome, although special reunion programming is organized for graduating classes every five years (this year for classes ending 4 or 9). Information on those reunion activities is available from the Commencement information hotlline: (401) 863-7000.

The Commencement/Reunion Weekend Schedule

Friday, May 22

  • Campus Dance, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on The College Green. At midnight, the Class of 2009 will gather  on the steps of Sayles Hall for the traditional informal singing of Brown’s Alma Mater.

Saturday, May 23

  • An all-class memorial service begins at 8:30 a.m. in Sayles Hall, remembering classmates who have died since their classes’ last reunion.
  • Nearly two dozen Commencement Forums will be offered during three time slots: 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The forums are 50-minute presentations by faculty, alumni and parents on a variety of subjects.
  • The Baccalaureate Service will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. Because the Meeting House has room only for graduating serniors, parents, family and friends may watch a video simulcast of the service on The College Green, in Sayles Hall or in the Salomon Center. The service is preceded by an academic procession at 1:45 p.m.

Sunday, May 24

  • Formation for the Commencement Procession begins at 9:30 a.m. The Procession steps off at 9:45.
  • The Graduate School ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. on Lincoln Field, Dean Sheila Bonde presiding.
  • The Alpert Medical School ceremony begins at 11:15 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church, Dean Edward Wing, M.D., presiding.
  • The College Ceremony begins at 12:10 p.m. on the grounds of the First Baptist Church in America. President Ruth J. Simmons, presiding.
  • The University Ceremony begins at 12:45 p.m. on The College Green, President Simmons presiding.
  • Undergraduates will receive their individual diplomas at departmental ceremonies at various locations immediately following the University Ceremony.

For News Media

Additional Commencement news will be released during May. Contact Media Relations at (401) 863-2476 or visit the Media Relations Web site.

The University strongly recommends that reporters, photographers and other media register for credentials by calling or e-mailing Deborah Baum at (401) 863-2478. Credentials require the journalist’s first and last name, organization represented, telephone number and e-mail address. Credentials must be ordered by close of business Thursday, May 21, and may be picked up at the Office of Media Relations, 71 George Street, beginning Friday morning, May 22.