Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed May 17, 1999
Contact: Mark Nickel

Commencement 1999: An Overview

Brown University to hold 231st Commencement Monday, May 31, 1999

Chief Marshal Stephen E. Weil '49 will lead more than 6,000 people down College Hill on Monday, May 31, in one of the nation's largest and most colorful academic pageants. The Commencement procession and 231st academic exercises cap a four-day Commencement-Reunion Weekend at Brown.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- More than 6,000 graduates, alumni, faculty, parent educators and University guests will march down College Hill on Monday morning, May 31, 1999. 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 231st Commencement exercises.

The ceremonial Van Wickle Gates, which opened inward to admit the Class of 1999 four years ago, will swing outward for the graduates' symbolic march into the world beyond Brown. Chief marshal for Monday morning's procession, one of the largest and most colorful academic pageants in the nation, will be Stephen E. Weil '49, senior scholar emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Museum Studies. The procession steps off at 8:30 a.m., led by candidates for medical degrees, then graduate degrees, then bachelor's degrees.

Three separate convocations precede the full University ceremony on The College Green:

By approximately 11:15, more than 15,000 people will have found their way to The College Green for the University's Commencement exercises and the ritual conferral of degrees by the president and chancellor. In all, President E. Gordon Gee will deliver formal Latin salutations to approximately 1,400 baccalaureate candidates, 400 candidates for advanced degrees and 10 candidates for honorary degrees. Flags from more than 50 nations, representing the homelands of the Class of 1999, will be flown during the University ceremony.

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 University provides 12,000 folding chairs for graduates and their guests, but Commencement is usually a standing-room-only event. 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 single 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 a bachelor's degree at Brown is 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 bachelors degrees symbolically by presenting a diploma to one representative of each degree (A.B., Sc.B, A.B./Sc.B.). Third, graduates will receive their individual 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.


Individuals with disabilities who require accommodations for any event during Commencement Weekend should contact the Office of University Events as soon as possible, but no less than 48 hours in advance. Call the Events Office at (401) 863-2474 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. This number connects to a line with TTY capabilities, if needed.

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/ae, friends and family will return to the campus for several days of reunion celebration which surround Commencement. Further information on reunion activities is available from the Reunion hotline: (401) 863-9292.

The Commencement/Reunion Schedule

Information on Commencement events is available from the Commencement hotline: (401) 863-7000.
For directions to the Brown University campus, dial (401) 863-1600.

Friday, May 28

Saturday, May 29

Sunday, May 30

Monday, May 31