Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1995-1996 index

Distributed May 7, 1996
Contact: Mark Nickel

A 1996 Commencement Overview

Brown University to hold 228th Commencement Monday, May 27, 1996

Chief Marshal Barbara Leonard '46 will lead more than 5,000 people down College Hill on Monday, May 27, forming one of the nation's largest and most colorful academic pageants. The Commencement procession and 228th academic exercises cap a four-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend at Brown. (A schedule of events is attached.)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Bagpipers, highland drummers, marching bands and more than 5,000 graduates, alumni, faculty, parent educators and University guests will march down College Hill in a mile-long procession that announces Brown University's 228th Commencement exercises Monday, May 27, 1996.

The ceremonial Van Wickle Gates, which opened inward to admit the Class of 1996 four years ago, will swing outward for the graduates' symbolic march into the world outside campus. Chief marshal for the procession, one of the largest and most colorful academic pageants in the nation, will be Barbara Leonard '46, trustee emerita of Brown and former Rhode Island secretary of state. Leonard will be assisted by Deputy Chief Marshals Dick and Nan Tracy, two longtime supporters of the University from the Class of 1946 and parents of four Brown graduates.

President Vartan Gregorian, presiding at his eighth Brown Commencement, will deliver formal Latin salutations to more than 1,400 baccalaureate candidates and nearly 400 recipients of advanced degrees. He will also confer nine honorary degrees on distinguished guests during University ceremonies on The College Green.

Three separate convocations will precede the University ceremonies. 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 Kathryn Spoehr will preside over her third Commencement exercises. (In case of rain, the Graduate School's convocation will be held in the Pizzitola Sports Center.) Undergraduates will march to the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, site of Brown Commencements since 1775, for the symbolic awarding of the baccalaureate degree, beginning at 10:15 a.m.

Because the graduating class fills the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church to capacity, parents and friends of the graduates who gather on The College Green traditionally listen to a broadcast of the undergraduate ceremony. This year, the University will also provide a video simulcast on a 14-by-22-foot video projection screen. The video unit will arrive on The College Green in time to provide parents and guests with a simulcast of the Baccalaureate Service Sunday afternoon and will be available in Meehan Auditorium in case of rain on Monday.

By approximately 11:45 Monday morning, all three groups will have returned from their separate convocations for the University ceremony on The College Green. At that ceremony, Gregorian will confer all degrees, grant ad eundem degrees, present special awards and honors, and confer honorary degrees. The University sets up 16,000 folding chairs for graduates and their guests, but Commencement is usually a standing-room-only event. Flags from more than 50 nations, representing the homelands of the Class of 1996, will be flown during the University ceremony.


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:

Departmental ceremonies

Receiving an undergraduate degree at Brown will be a three-step process on Monday morning. 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. 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. Individual graduates will receive their actual diplomas during departmental ceremonies held at various locations on and off campus at the conclusion of the main ceremony, about 12:30 p.m. A listing of sites for these ceremonies is included in the Commencement program, distributed on campus Commencement morning.

Rain Plan

If Monday is damp or drizzly, outdoor activities will go on 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. Medical Senior Citations and Hazeltine Awards will be presented during ceremonies in the First Unitarian Church and the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America respectively. Guests of undergraduates may view a large-screen video simulcast of the ceremonies at Meehan Auditorium.


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 24

Saturday, May 25

Sunday, May 26

Monday, May 27