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May 8, 2007
Contact: Molly de Ramel
(401) 863-2476

Commencement/Reunion Overview
Brown to Hold 239th Commencement Sunday, May 27, 2007

Chief Marshal Richard Canfield Barker, a 1957 alumnus, will lead more than 6,000 people down College Hill on Sunday, May 27, 2007, in one of the nation’s largest and most colorful academic pageants. The procession and academic exercises will cap a three-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend on the Brown campus. Brown University’s 239th Commencement will follow a relatively new plan for the second time in its history. Due in part to the large sizes of recent classes, graduates will assemble on the grounds of the First Baptist Church in America, rather than inside.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On Sunday morning, May 27, 2007, Commencement Chief Marshal Richard Canfield Barker, a 1957 graduate and father of two Brown graduates, will lead thousands of graduates, accompanied by an entourage of bagpipers, highland drummers, television cameras and the Brown Band, in a procession that will mark the beginning of Brown University’s 239th Commencement exercises and the conclusion of Brown’s three-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend.

President Ruth J. Simmons, her party, members of the Brown Corporation, honorary degree recipients, faculty, alumni, and the graduating classes of the College, the Graduate School and the Medical School will march through the ceremonial Van Wickle Gates, which opened inward to admit the Class of 2007 four years ago and now open outward for the graduates’ symbolic march into the world beyond Brown.

After thousands march through the gates, the graduates will take part in Brown’s Sunday-morning Commencement exercises, including three separate convocation ceremonies prior to the University exercises back on The College Green:

  • Graduate students will gather at 10:30 a.m. on Lincoln Field, where Sheila Bonde will preside over her second Convocation as dean of the Graduate School.
  • Medical students will gather at 11:30 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church for their degree ceremonies and the administration of the Physician’s Oath by Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Eli Y. Adashi, M.D., who will be presiding over this third Convocation as dean.
  • Undergraduates will congregate by noon on the grounds of the First Baptist Church in America.

A short ceremony for graduating seniors will begin on the grounds of the church. A student will perform the National Anthem, and the University chaplain will deliver the invocation. Representatives of the senior class will then enter the First Baptist Church and bring out the Manning Chair, which is the ceremonial chair used by the president for Commencement. The president will conduct the conferral of the baccalaureate degrees in Latin from the Manning Chair.

These ceremonial events, approximately 10 minutes in length, will be simulcast with closed captioning to The College Green via two large video screens. In addition, the College ceremony will be broadcast to the Salomon Center and Sayles Hall. The University provides 12,000 folding chairs for graduates and their guests.

Following the conferral of the degrees at the church, the president and the senior class will recess from the church grounds and return to The College Green.

Additional information on the weekend is available at the Commencement/Reunion Web site:

The University Ceremony

By 12:40 p.m., the seniors will have found their way to The College Green for the University Ceremony and the ritual presentation of symbolic degrees by the president before an audience of more than 11,000. In all, President Simmons will deliver formal Latin salutations to nearly 1,600 baccalaureate candidates, present symbolic degrees to representatives of the Brown Graduate School and Thew Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and confer honorary doctorates upon nine candidates for honorary degrees. Flags from more than 70 nations, representing the home countries of the Class of 2007 from Argentina to Zimbabwe, will be flown during the University Ceremony.

During the University Ceremony the following events take place:

  • the Senior Orations;
  • the conferring and awarding of honorary degrees and the reading of the honorary degree citations;
  • the presentation by the president of symbolic degrees to one graduating student in each degree category: baccalaureate, master, medical doctor, and doctor of philosophy;
  • the conferring of Masters of Arts ad eundum to those full-time faculty who have been appointed or promoted to the ranks of professor, associate professor or senior lecturer who hold no other Brown degree and who have been at the University or at an affiliated hospital for at least one academic year.

Rain Plan

The Commencement procession will be cancelled only in the event of heavy rain. If rain plan is in effect, a yellow pennant will be flown from the flagpole on The College Green. An announcement will also appear on the University’s home page ( In this event, the University Ceremony is not held, and the presentation of symbolic baccalaureate degrees and the conferral of honorary degrees will take place in the Pizzitola Sports Center in a version of the College Ceremony (which will be simulcast to the Salomon Center, Sayles Hall, Meehan Auditorium and The College Green for parents and guests). The Graduate School and Alpert Medical School ceremonies will be held in their respective locations, which are tented and indoors. The departmental diploma ceremonies will be held in the assigned rain-plan locations immediately following the College Ceremony.


More than 3,500 Brown alumni/ae, friends and family will return to the campus for reunion celebrations surrounding Commencement. Further information on reunion activities is available from the Commencement/Reunion Information Line: (401) 863-7000.

A Synopsis of The Commencement/Reunion Weekend Schedule

Friday, May 25

  • Campus Dance, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on The College Green. At midnight, an informal singing of the Alma Mater will take place on Sayles Hall steps.

Saturday, May 26

  • All-Class Memorial Service, 8:15 a.m. in Sayles Hall, remembers classmates who have died since their classes’ last reunion.
  • Commencement Forums begin at 9 a.m. in various locations. Twenty-three hour-long forums will feature a range of topics from the response to Katrina, to vision and the brain.
  • The 2007 Baccalaureate Service begins at 3 p.m. in the First Baptist Church in America. The service is preceded by a colorful procession at 2:30 p.m. Craig C. Mello, a 1982 Brown graduate and winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, will deliver the address, which will be simulcast to The College Green, Sayles Hall and the Salomon Center.
  • The Brown University-sponsored Water Fire begins at sundown along the Providence River. An alumni hospitality tent will host University guests at Market Square.

Sunday, May 27

  • Commencement Procession formation begins at 9:30 a.m.
  • Commencement Procession, with its traditional walk through the Van Wickle Gates, steps off at Faunce Arch on The College Green at 9:45 a.m.
  • The Graduate School Convocation Ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. on Lincoln Field, Dean of the Graduate School Sheila Bonde, presiding.
  • The Alpert Medical School Convocation Ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church, Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Eli Y. Adashi, M.D., presiding.
  • The College Ceremony begins at noon on the grounds of the First Baptist Church in America, President Ruth J. Simmons presiding.
  • The University Ceremony begins at 12:45 p.m. and includes senior orations and the awarding of symbolic and honorary degrees, President Ruth J. Simmons presiding.
  • Undergraduates receive their diplomas at departmental ceremonies at various locations, immediately following the conclusion of the University Ceremony.
  • 4 p.m. Departmental ceremonies conclude.

For News Media

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

University-issued press credentials are recommended for any events that are open to press. Media representatives may register for credentials with Amy Morton by calling (401) 863-2453 or sending an e-mail to Credentials require the reporter’s name, organization represented, and contact information for both telephone and e-mail. Credentials may be picked up at the Office Media Relations (Maddock Alumni Center, corner of Brown and George streets) beginning Thursday, May 24.

The Commencement Information Hotline is (401) 863-7000. It offers tickets and more specific information about many of the activities planned for Commencement weekend.

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 the Office of Media Relations at (401) 863-2476.