PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown President Christina H. Paxson will preside over the University’s 247th Commencement exercises Sunday, May 24, 2015, on the College Green. The ceremony concludes Brown’s three-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend and will mark the official end of the University’s semiquincentenary celebrations, the 250th anniversary of Brown’s founding.
University-issued press credentials will be required for access to the press area. To register, email or call Jose Garcia 401-863-2476 in the Office of News and Communications. The reporter’s name, organization, telephone number, and email address are required. Credentials must be requested by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 21. They will be available at the Office of News and Communications, 71 George St.
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 22.
Highlights for 2015
Launch of the final 250th publication
Brown: The History of an Idea, a book by Ted Widmer, is being published this month and will be available exclusively at the Brown Bookstore until national distribution this fall.
The University will confer its first 27 Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership degrees, awarded by the School for Professional Studies.
Campus Dance with fireworks
The 250th celebration began in March 2014 with fireworks on the College Green. As the celebration enters its final weekend, fireworks will follow the Senior Sing at Campus Dance on Friday, just after midnight.
The center line for Sunday’s Commencement procession — down College Street and right on Benefit toward the Meeting House — will be painted brown, white, and red for the day.
Beyond the Bottle
Students and other members of the Brown community have worked to eliminate bottled water. The 2015 Commencement will be bottle-free, with mobile hydration stations — “quench buggies” — available for graduates and University guests.
Alma Mater 250
The traditional singing of the Alma Mater that concludes the Commencement ceremonies will have some special semiquincentenary touches this year.
Throughout the weekend
Brown University schedules class reunions and Commencement on the same weekend. The concurrent scheduling allows alumni to welcome graduating seniors into the fold while also celebrating their lifelong connection to the University. Scheduled activities (information is available online) include receptions, forums, an alumni family field day, and prominent participation in the Commencement procession down College Hill.
Brown’s museums and galleries are open to University guests and the general public during Commencement Weekend:
- David Winton Bell Gallery | Dave Cole: American Lullaby
- Granoff Center/Cohen Gallery | Richard Fishman: Recent Work
- Pembroke Center | The Lamphere Case: The Sex Discrimination Lawsuit that Changed Brown
- Slavery and Justice Center | A Peculiar Aesthetic: Representation and Images of Slavery
- Brown/RISD Hillel | Changing America
- Haffenreffer Museum | In Deo Speramus: The Symbols and Ceremonies of Brown University
- Haffenreffer Museum | Images of Power: Rulership in the Grasslands of Cameroon
- Rhode Island Hall | The Lost Museum
Saturday, May 23, 2015
A Commencement Weekend tradition for more than four decades, the Commencement Forums are lectures, discussions, and performances by faculty, alumni, and guests who are nationally recognized authorities — with plenty of opportunity for audience questions and comments. All of this year’s forums — nearly two dozen — are part of Brown University’s celebration of its first 250 years and are open to the public without charge. Forums begin at 9 and 11 a.m. and 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Full details and schedules are online. A sampling:
- “Brown: The History of an Idea” — Author Ted Widmer discusses his new book, published this month and available exclusively at the Brown Bookstore.
- “Weather, Climate and Resilience: What Environmental Intelligence Means for You” — Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator and under sectretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, is an atmospheric chemist, former astronaut, and the first American woman to walk in space. Sullivan will receive an honorary degree Sunday.
- “Responding to Ebola: Perspectives from the Front Line” — Members of the Brown community who have been in Africa combatting the Ebola outbreak talk about their experiences and the prognosis for public health there.
- “The Pope and Mussolini” — Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Brown faculty member David Kertzer talks about the secret relations between Pope Pius XI and the Italian dictator.
- “The Genome Engineering Revolution: Birth of a Technology” — Jennifer Doudna, one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People, will discuss CRISPR-Cas9, the DNA editing technology she co-invented, and its implications for biology and medicine.
- “A Conversation with Tracee Ellis Ross ’94” — Ross, the award-winning actress from Girlfriends and Black-ish, will be in conversation with Tricia Rose, director of Brown’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Brown. Ross will receive an honorary degree Sunday.
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.
This year’s Baccalaureate address, “Be a Daniel,” will be delivered by Robert A. Corrigan, a 1957 Brown graduate who was president of San Francisco State University. Corrigan will receive an honorary degree Sunday.
Military commissioning and reception 4:30 p.m. | The Front Green
Three members of the graduating class will be commissioned as officers in the U.S. armed forces:
- Phil Smith, Army
- Walker Mills, Marines
- Kelly MacDonald, Army
(MacDonald, a graduating medical student, will begin a residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)
A reception honoring six veterans of the U.S. military who are receiving Brown degrees this year will follow the commissioning ceremony.
Waterfire ca. 8:30 p.m. | Downtown Providence
The Brown Alumni Association is among the sponsors of Waterfire, a celebrated work of public art by Barnaby Evans, a 1975 Brown graduate. The line of bonfires on downtown rivers has become a signature feature of Providence.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
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 to begin their studies and when new graduates depart for the larger world beyond Brown. 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 25.
Graduate School Ceremony 10:15 a.m. | Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle
Peter M. Weber, dean of the Graduate School, will present advanced degrees. Highlights of the ceremony include:
- The inaugural graduating class of the Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership program, presented by the School for Professional Studies. Twenty-seven mid-career professionals, averaging 19 years of experience ranging from physician to general counsel to state legislator, completed the 16-month program.
- Presentation of the Horace Mann Medal to Lynn Rothschild, a 1985 Ph.D. recipient, astrobiologist and senior scientist at NASA. The Horace Mann Medal was established in 2003 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Brown University Graduate School and to honor the famous educator, an 1819 Brown graduate.
- The graduate student address, titled “Intellectual Responsibility: A Culture of Critique,” will be delivered by Mateus Baptista, who will receive a master’s degree in urban education policy. Baptista was selected as Commencement speaker by the Graduate Student Council.
Alpert Medical School Ceremony 10:15 a.m. | First Unitarian Church
Dr. Jack A. Elias, dean of medicine and biological sciences, will preside over the ceremony and 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. More than 100 medical graduates will begin their practices with residency training. The ceremony will feature two addresses:
- Dr. Luba Dumenco, instructor in pathology and laboratory medicine and director of the pre-clinical curriculum, will deliver the faculty address titled “Learning from Those Who Touch Our Lives: Reflections on Teaching and Inspiration from Patients, Students, Colleagues, and Families.”Carolyn Luppens will present the student oration titled “The Anti-Checklist Manifesto” to her colleagues in the M.D. Class of 2015.
College Ceremony 12:15 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
Graduating seniors march back up College Hill to the College Green, where they join parents, friends, guests, and graduates from the Alpert Medical School and Graduate School ceremonies for the University ceremony, which includes:
Since its founding in 1764, Brown has selected members of the graduating class to speak during the Commencement ceremony. Two members of the Class of 2015 were chosen by a committee of students, faculty, and administrators to deliver orations at Commencement:
- Michelle Bailhe, a human biology concentrator, will deliver an oration titled “I don’t Know.”
- Lucas Johnson, an education studies concentrator, will deliver an oration titled “School Spirit.”
Honorary degrees are voted by the Board of Fellows of the Brown Corporation and conferred on the College Green. The University will honor six candidates who have achieved great distinction in their fields:
- Robert A. Corrigan, university president, American studies scholar;
- Louise Lamphere, anthropologist;
- David E. McKinney, business executive, civic leader;
- Tracee Ellis Ross, actress;
- Susan Solomon, atmospheric chemist;
- Kathryn D. Sullivan, astronaut, geoscientist.
Brown at 250: The Alma Mater
Brown’s 247th Commencement — and the official celebration of the University”s 250th anniversary — will conclude with the Alma Mater. Thousands of graduates, alumni, and friends will participate in the singing — with some special semiquincentenary touches this year.
Awarding of Diplomas 2:15 p.m. | Various locations
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, which will be available online on Sunday morning.