Brown University’s three-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend begins Friday, May 23, 2014, and concludes with the 246th Commencement exercises Sunday, May 25. This year, the University is celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding. It will confer honorary degrees on nine Brown graduates, among other anniversary observances.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — President Christina H. Paxson will preside over Brown University’s 246th Commencement on Sunday, May 25, 2014, a ceremony that also marks the 250th anniversary of the University's founding in 1764. The 2014 Commencement will include signs, banners, special Commencement forums and exhibitions, and honorary degrees for nine University alumni. The traditional march down College Hill by thousands of graduates, faculty, alumni and University guests, will bring the three-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend to a close.
Brown Commencements have been significant events for Providence residents and University guests since the 18th century — and most events and exhibitions on Saturday, May 24, and Sunday, May 25, are open to the public. A summary of the weekend’s main events follows here, and additional information and updates are available on the 2014 Commencement website. A copy of the Commencement program, which includes the names of all degree recipients, will be available online for Commencement weekend.
Editors: University-issued press credentials will be required for all reporters, photographers, videographers, and other media representatives. To register for credentials, email or call Jose Garcia at 401-863-2476 in the Office of News and Communications. The reporter’s name, organization, telephone number, and e-mail address are required. Requests for credentials must be made by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 22. Credentials will be available at the Office of News and Communications, 71 George St.
In advance of Commencement activities 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 prior to Friday, May 23. 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.
Friday through Sunday, May 23-25, 2014
Brown is one of the few universities that hold reunions on the same weekend as commencement ceremonies. The concurrent scheduling allows alumni to welcome graduating students into the fold while also celebrating their own lifelong connection to the University. Thousands of Brown alumni will come to campus for a variety of social, academic, and celebratory events that will bring them together with classmates and with Brown students. A complete list of public reunion activities is available online at the alumni relations website.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Commencement Forums have been part of Brown’s Commencement Weekend activities for more than four decades. Faculty, alumni, and distinguished guests lead a series of academic colloquia, offering insight, expertise, and answers to audience questions across a variety of fields.
This year, more than two dozen Commencement Forums will be held during four blocks on Saturday — (9 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.). Presentations cover a range of topics from health and wellness to environmental sustainability, startups and entrepreneurism, the symbols and ceremonies of Brown University (a 250th anniversary curator’s tour), globalization, arts and entertainment, and a session on the newly published Brown Reader. Six honorary degree candidates will be among the presenters: music educator Lee Berk, author Jeffrey Eugenides, physician Arthur Horwich, electrical engineer Mary Lou Jepsen, BET Networks executive Debra Lee, and author Lois Lowry.
A list of times and venues for the forums is available online.
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 Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America.
Baccalaureate service — 2:30 p.m.
Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America
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. Because the 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.
The Baccalaureate speaker is Nalini Nadkarni. Nadkarni, a forest ecologist whose work in Costa Rica has been the subject of award-winning documentaries, is an outspoken advocate for the communication of science, particularly by scientists themselves. Through her own TED talks and interviews in a variety of consumer magazines, she has advanced public understanding of forest ecology and the public appreciation of science.
Military commissioning and reception — 4:30 p.m.
Rhode Island Hall, Room 108
Brown will honor two graduating student veterans, Nicholas Gesualdo and Lauren Rouse, and several students for their plans for military service.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Commencement procession — 9:45 a.m.
The Van Wickle Gates
The University’s ceremonial Van Wickle Gates open for only two reasons: when new students enter campus in the fall and when new graduates depart for the larger world beyond campus. The procession begins at 9:45 a.m. at the Van Wickle Gates.
In order to accommodate graduates, families, and friends who wish to take photographs, the Van Wickle Gates will remain open until 6 p.m. Monday, May 26.
The Graduate School Ceremony — 10:15 a.m.
Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle
Peter M. Weber, dean of the Graduate School, will present advanced degrees at the Graduate School Ceremony, beginning at 10:15 a.m. The ceremony includes a Commencement address by a student selected by Graduate Student Council and the presentation of the Horace Mann Medal.
The orator is Sherri Eldin, of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., who will receive the Master of Fine Arts in acting. Eldin is a graduate of Fordham University in bilingual literature and creative writing between English and Italian.
Alpert Medical School Ceremony — 11:15 a.m.
First Unitarian Church
Dr. Jack A. Elias, dean of medicine and biological sciences, will preside over his first Commencement as dean of the Alpert Medical School. Elias 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 ceremony will feature two addresses:
- Dr. Edward Feller, clinical assistant professor of medicine, will deliver the faculty address titled “Sacred Spaces,” thoughts on the personal connections that invigorate life and the disconnects that cause separation;
- Josef Nevers Tofte will present the student oration titled “Medicine: A Work In Progress,” exploring themes of the extraordinary journey toward being a physician.
College Ceremony — 12:10 p.m.
Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America
Since 1776, all but two Brown University Commencements have been held at the Meeting House. In 2006, when the graduating senior 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 Christina H. Paxson will greet the class, deliver brief remarks, and confer bachelor degrees on the church grounds. The ceremony will be videocast to the College Green, Salomon Center, and Sayles Hall.
University Ceremony — 1 p.m.
The College Green
The Commencement procession returns to the College Green, where the University ceremony begins. The University ceremony includes:
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, Joshua Block and Caroline Bologna, were selected from an applicant pool of about a hundred students.
- Joshua Block will speak about the value of healthy controversy and the ways in which Brown fosters and promotes this culture.
- Caroline Bologna will speak about the student four-year quest for identity and the “idea of labels.”
Honorary degrees are voted by the Board of Fellows of the Brown Corporation and conferred on the College Green. This year, as part of its semiquincentenary, the University will honor nine Brown graduates with honorary doctorates:
- Lee Berk ’64, former president of Berklee College of Music and an advocate for broader community programs of musical education;
- Beatrice E. Coleman ’25, schoolteacher, church musician, and former secretary of the NAACP’s New England Regional Conference (conferred posthumously);
- Jeffrey Eugenides ’82, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and author;
- Arthur Horwich ’72, M.D.’75, physician, geneticist, and cellular biochemist;
- Mary Lou Jepsen ’87, Ph.D. ’97, electrical engineer and innovator of computer-driven graphic displays;
- Debra L. Lee ’76, chairman and CEO of BET Networks;
- Lois Lowry ’58, award-winning children’s author;
- Nalini Nadkarni ’76, forest ecologist and science communicator; and
- Thomas Perez ’83, civil rights attorney and U.S. secretary of labor.
Awarding of diplomas
Graduating seniors receive their diplomas at more than 50 departmental ceremonies immediately following the University ceremony. Location information, including a map and key, is printed in the Commencement program.