The Brown University News Bureau
Distributed May 7, 1997
Contact: Mark Nickel
Commencement 1997: An Overview
Brown University to hold 229th Commencement Monday, May 26, 1997
Chief Marshal Charles Watts '47 will lead more than 6,000 people down College
Hill on Monday, May 26, forming one of the nation's largest and most colorful
academic pageants. The Commencement procession and 229th academic exercises -
Vartan Gregorian's ninth and final Commencement as president - cap a four-day
Commencement and Reunion Weekend at Brown. (A schedule of events is
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- More than 6,000 graduates, alumni, faculty, parent
educators and University guests will march down College Hill on Monday morning,
May 26, 1997. Their mile-long procession, accompanied by an entourage of
bagpipers, highland drummers, television cameras and marching bands, will mark
the beginning of Brown University's 229th Commencement exercises.
The ceremonial Van Wickle Gates, which opened inward to admit the Class of
1997 four years ago, will swing outward for the graduates' symbolic march into
the world beyond campus. This year the gates will also swing outward for Vartan
Gregorian, Brown's 16th president, who will be presiding at his ninth and final
Commencement. Gregorian will become president of the Carnegie Corporation of
New York in July.
Chief marshal for the procession, one of the largest and most colorful
academic pageants in the nation, will be Charles Henry Watts II '47, former
president of Bucknell University, now a business and educational consultant in
By approximately 11:15, more than 20,000 people will have found their way to
The College Green for the ritual conferral of degrees by the president and
chancellor. Three separate convocations will precede the University
- Medical students will gather at 8:45 in the First Unitarian Church for
their degree ceremonies and administration of the Physician's Oath by Dean of
Medicine and Biological Sciences Donald J. Marsh, M.D.
- Graduate students will assemble for open-air ceremonies at 9:15 a.m. on
Lincoln Field (behind Sayles Hall), where Dean of the Graduate School and
Research Peder Estrup will preside over his first Commencement exercises. (In
case of rain, the Graduate School's convocation will be held in the Pizzitola
- Undergraduates will march to the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church
in America, site of all Brown Commencements since 1775, for the symbolic
awarding of the baccalaureate degree, beginning at 10 a.m.
In all, Gregorian will deliver formal Latin salutations to more than 1,400
baccalaureate candidates, nearly 400 candidates for advanced degrees and 10
recipients of honorary degrees. Flags from more than 50 nations, representing
the homelands of the Class of 1997, will be flown during the University
ceremony. The University provides 16,000 folding chairs for graduates and their
guests, but Commencement is usually a standing-room-only event.
Because the baccalaureate graduating class fills the Meeting House of the
First Baptist Church to capacity, parents and friends of the graduates
traditionally gather on The College Green to listen to a broadcast of the
undergraduate ceremony. For the second year, the University will provide a
video simulcast on a 14-by-22-foot "Jumbotron" video screen. The video unit
will arrive on The College Green in time to provide parents and guests with
simulcasts of several Commencement Weekend events, including the Baccalaureate
Service on Sunday afternoon. The large screen will be available for parents and
guests in Meehan Auditorium in case of rain on Monday.
By long tradition, Brown does not invite a "main" speaker to deliver a
Commencement address, but asks a number of individuals, including students, to
contribute remarks at the various Commencement convocations. This year's speakers will include:
- Bill Moyers, the author and broadcast journalist, will present this year's
baccalaureate address at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 25, in the First Baptist Meeting
- Dr. Samuel Lin, rear admiral and assistant surgeon general (retired), will
address the M.D. graduating class during ceremonies beginning at 8:45 Monday
morning in the First Unitarian Church.
- Dr. Thomas A. Parrino, professor of medicine at Brown, has been chosen by
the M.D. graduating class as faculty speaker for the medical school convocation
in the First Unitarian Church.
- Raymond Moreno, a member of the M.D. Class of 1997, has been chosen by
fellow students to deliver a Commencement address in the First Unitarian Church.
- James Pomerantz, provost of Brown University, will address candidates for
advanced degrees during the Graduate School's convocation on Lincoln Field,
beginning at 9:15 Monday morning.
- Justin Carroll, a creative writing concentrator from West Chester, Pa.,
and Erica Seidel, an international relations concentrator from Harwich, Mass.,
have been chosen by their classmates as student orators for the College
convocation in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America,
beginning at 10 a.m. Monday.
Receiving an undergraduate degree at Brown involves a three-step process.
First, during ceremonies at the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in
America, President Gregorian will present candidates for the bachelor's degree
to members of the Corporation, who will authorize him to confer the degrees.
Second, during ceremonies on The College Green, Gregorian will confer all the
degrees symbolically by presenting the degree to one representative of each
degree. He will also exhort the graduates in Latin. Third, individual graduates
will receive their diplomas during departmental ceremonies held at various
locations on and off campus at the conclusion of the University ceremony, about
12:30 p.m. A listing of sites for these ceremonies is included in the
Commencement program, distributed on campus Commencement morning.
If Monday is damp or drizzly, outdoor activities proceed as scheduled. If a
full-scale downpour begins, yellow pennants will be flown around campus,
indicating that the rain plan is in effect. In that event, Commencement
ceremonies scheduled for The College Green will take place at the Meeting House
of the First Baptist Church in America, and the departmental ceremonies will
move to rain plan sites listed in the Commencement program. Guests of
undergraduates may view a large-screen video simulcast of the ceremonies at
More than 4,000 Brown alumni, alumnae, friends and family will return to the
campus to participate in several days of celebration which surround
Commencement. Further information on reunion activities is available from the
Commencement/Reunion hotline: 401/863-7000.
The Commencement/Reunion Schedule
For directions to the Brown University campus, dial 401/863-1600.
Friday, May 23
- The Brown Bear Buffet, available from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Sharpe
Refectory, gives degree candidates and their families a chance to join alumni
and the Brown bear for a buffet dinner.
- "Bring a Book To Brown" is a public service project in which returning
alumni, parents and guests of the University bring new children's books,
appropriate for grades 3 through 6. Books will be collected at Reunion
registration centers on campus during the weekend.
- Campus Dance, from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. on The College Green, will feature
music by the Duke Belaire Orchestra. Student bands will perform on Lincoln
- Senior Sing, a traditional feature at the Campus Dance, takes place at
midnight on the steps of Sayles Hall.
- "Blues in the Night," a musical revue from the '30s and '40s, will be
presented at 8 p.m. in Leeds Theatre. Contact the box office for details:
Saturday, May 24
- Commencement Forums, presentations on a variety of topics by
internationally respected speakers, take place all day, from 9:30 a.m. until 5
p.m. Nineteen forums are scheduled, all open without charge to campus guests
and the general public on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Alumni field day will be held from noon until 4 p.m. in the Wendell R.
Erickson Athletic Complex (Aldrich-Dexter Field).
- "Blues in the Night," will be performed at 8 p.m. (see listing for Friday,
- The annual Pops Concert, featuring the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra
in concert with Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, will take place
from 9 to 11 p.m. on The College Green.
Sunday, May 25
- A Ceremony of Remembrance: Brown Honors Its Veterans" - President Gregorian and other officials will unveil a new memorial honoring the University's war dead from World War II, Korea and Vietnam at 9:30 a.m. near
Soldiers Arch, Thayer Street at Manning Walkway. The U.S. Navy Band will
- "An Hour with the President," a long-standing Commencement tradition,
features informal remarks by President Vartan Gregorian, with questions from
alumni and parents. It begins at 10 a.m. in Lincoln Field.
- University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson will officiate at the All Class
Memorial Service to celebrate the lives of deceased classmates, 11:15 a.m. in
- José Ramos Horta, one of two 1996 Nobel Peace laureates from East Timor,
will deliver a Stephen A. Ogden Jr. Memorial Lecture at 11:30 Sunday morning in
the Salomon Center for Teaching. The lecture will be simulcast to The College Green.
- "The Renaissance City Alumni Waterfront Festival," new at
Commencement/Reunion Weekend this year, will allow alumni and Commencement
guests of the University to explore Waterplace Park and the new Providence
waterfront. Special music and activities are planned from 1 until 5 p.m. Open
to the public.
- The 1997 Baccalaureate Service begins at about 1 p.m. in the Meeting House of
the First Baptist Church in America. The service is preceded by an academic
procession at 12:45 p.m. Bill Moyers will deliver the baccalaureate address;
family and friends may listen to the address on The College Green.
- Richard Holbrooke '62, the U.S. diplomat who played a pivotal role in the
Dayton Peace Accords for resolving the conflict in Bosnia, will deliver a
Stephen A. Ogden Jr. Memorial Lecture at 4:30 p.m. Sunday in the Salomon Center
for Teaching. The lecture will be simulcast to The College Green.
- "Blues in the Night" will be performed at 4 p.m. (see listing for Friday,
- The Brown University Wind Symphony will perform in Sayles Hall at 8 p.m.
- Second Annual Reunion Organ Concert, presented by University Organist Mark
Steinbach, will begin at 9 p.m. in Sayles Hall.
Monday, May 26
- The 1997 Commencement Procession will be led this year by Chief Marshal
Charles Watts '47. It will be more than a mile long, will involve more than
6,000 people, and will begin forming on The College Green at 7:30 a.m.
- The Medical School Convocation will begin at 8:45 in the First Unitarian
- The Graduate School Convocation will begin at 9:15 a.m. in Lincoln Field.
- The Undergraduate Ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in the Meeting House of the
First Baptist Church in America, site of Brown Commencements since 1775.
- The University ceremony will begin at approximately 11:15 a.m. on The
- Graduating seniors receive their diplomas at departmental ceremonies
immediately following the academic exercises on The College Green.