Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed May 8, 1998
Contact: Mark Nickel

Commencement 1998: An Overview

Brown University to hold 230th Commencement Monday, May 25, 1998

Chief Marshal Willard C. Butcher '48 will lead more than 6,000 people down College Hill on Monday, May 25, forming one of the nation's largest and most colorful academic pageants. The Commencement procession and 230th academic exercises cap a four-day Commencement and Reunion Weekend at Brown. In addition to presiding at his first Brown Commencement, President E. Gordon Gee will deliver an inaugural address on Saturday, May 23, at 11:30 a.m.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- More than 6,000 graduates, alumni, faculty, parent educators and University guests will march down College Hill on Monday morning, May 25, 1998. 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 230th Commencement exercises.

The ceremonial Van Wickle Gates, which opened inward to admit the Class of 1998 four years ago, will swing outward for the graduates' symbolic march into the world beyond campus. Presiding over it all will be Brown's 17th president, E. Gordon Gee, who will deliver his inaugural address at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday of Commencement Weekend.

Chief marshal for Monday's procession, one of the largest and most colorful academic pageants in the nation, will be Willard C. Butcher '48, former CEO and chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank and a fellow emeritus of the Brown Corporation.

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 ceremony:

In all, President Gee will deliver formal Latin salutations to approximately 1,400 baccalaureate candidates, nearly 400 candidates for advanced degrees and eight recipients of honorary degrees. Flags from more than 50 nations, representing the homelands of the Class of 1998, 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, parents and friends of the graduates traditionally gather on The College Green to listen to a broadcast of the undergraduate ceremony and view the proceedings on a large outdoor video screen. The 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:

Editors: A news release with brief biographies of speakers will be available from the News Bureau on May 13.

Departmental ceremonies

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 Gee 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, Gee 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.

Rain Plan

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 Meehan Auditorium.


More than 4,000 Brown alumni, alumnae, friends and family will return to the campus to participate in several days of reunion 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 22

Saturday, May 23

Sunday, May 24

Monday, May 25