Distributed May 19, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Commencement Overview

Brown University to hold 232nd Commencement Monday, May 29

Chief Marshal Lacy Herrmann ’50 will lead more than 6,000 people down College Hill on Monday, May 29, in one of the nation’s largest and most colorful academic pageants. The Commencement procession and 232nd 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 29, 2000. 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 232nd Commencement exercises.

The ceremonial Van Wickle Gates, which opened inward to admit the Class of 2000 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 Lacy Herrmann , Class of 1950. 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:

  • 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. (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 all Brown Commencements since 1775, for the symbolic awarding of the baccalaureate degree, beginning at 10 a.m.

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 Sheila E. Blumstein will deliver formal Latin salutations to approximately 1,600 baccalaureate candidates, 450 candidates for advanced degrees and 10 candidates for honorary degrees. Flags from more than 50 nations, representing the homelands of the Class of 2000, 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:

  • Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian Roman Catholic priest recognized as the father of liberation theology. He will deliver the Baccalaureate address in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 28;

  • U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher will talk about the nation’s health agenda at the School of Medicine Commencement Convocation, Monday, May 29 at 8:45 a.m., in the First Unitarian Church;

  • Dr. Alicia Monroe, associate professor of family medicine and associate dean of medicine for minority affairs, will deliver the faculty address at the School of Medicine Convocation, and David Jackman, a member of the 2000 M.D. graduating class, will address his classmates;

  • Eirene Donohue of Barrington, R.I., and Joseph Edmonds Jr. of Baltimore, Md., will deliver senior orations Monday, May 29, at 10:15 a.m., in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church of America.

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 Blumstein will present candidates for the bachelor’s degree to members of the Corporation, who will authorize her to confer the degrees. Second, during ceremonies on The College Green, Blumstein 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 Office of University events 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 will 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 about events is available from the Commencement hotline: (401) 863-7000.
For directions to the Brown University campus, dial (401) 863-1600.

Friday, May 26

“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, to campus. Books will be collected at Reunion registration centers and throughout the weekend at Maddock Alumni Center and will be distributed to children in Providence.

Friends of Brown University Theatre will present The World Goes ’Round, a Commencement show featuring music of John Kander and Fred Ebb performed by alumni and undergraduates. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. in Leeds Theatre at Lyman Hall, 77 Waterman St. Information is available at the Box Office: (401) 863-2838 Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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 Field, with jazz near Carrie Tower.

Senior Sing, a traditional feature at the Campus Dance, takes place at midnight on the steps of Sayles Hall.

Saturday, May 27

Commencement Forums, presentations on a variety of topics by internationally respected speakers, take place all day, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sixteen forums are scheduled this year, all open without charge to campus guests and the general public on a space-available basis. For more information: (401) 863-2474.

The Class of 2000 College Honors Celebration, honoring undergraduates who have received departmental academic awards, begins at 1:30 p.m. on the lawns and terraces along Manning Walkway, between Brook and Thayer streets. President Blumstein and Dean of the College Nancy Dunbar will address the honors recipients. (Rain site: Pizzitola Sports Center)

Alumni field day will be held from noon until 4 p.m. in the Wendell R. Erickson Athletic Complex (Aldrich-Dexter Field), featuring music, games and amusements. (Rain site: Olney-Margolies Athletic Center.)

The 19th Annual Dr. Carl and Dorothy O. Jagolinzer Memorial Commencement Concert, featuring performances by outstanding graduating seniors, begins at 4 p.m. in Grant Recital Hall.

“Kaleidoscope 2000: Two One-Act Plays by Brown Students” will be presented at 5 p.m. in the George Houston Bass Auditorium at Churchill House by Rites & Reason Theatre.

Friends of Brown University Theatre will present The World Goes ’Round at 7:30 p.m. (see Friday listing for details).

The Alumni Relations Commencement Concert, featuring the Temptations and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, will take place from 9 to 11 p.m. on The College Green.

Rites & Reason Theatre presents an “Old School House Party: Vintage R&B, Soul Food Delights, Card Games” from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. in Churchill House, 155 Angell St.

Sunday, May 28

University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson will officiate at the All Class Memorial Service to celebrate the lives of deceased classmates, 10:15 a.m. in Sayles Hall.

The 2000 Baccalaureate Service begins at about 1:15 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. Gustavo Gutierrez, recognized as the father of liberation theology, will deliver the address; family and friends may listen on The College Green.

The Brown Band presents its 75th Anniversary Celebration and CD Release Concert at 7 p.m. at Waterplace Park in Downtown Providence. Free and open to the public. In case of rain, the concert will be presented in Sayles Hall.

From dusk until midnight, the Brown Alumni Association will sponsor “WaterFire,” the dramatic multimedia fire installation by Barnaby Evans ’75 in downtown Providence.

Monday, May 29

The Commencement Procession will be led this year by Chief Marshal Lacy Herrmann ’50. It will be more than a mile long, involve more than 6,000 people, and will step off at 8:30 a.m.

The Medical School Convocation will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church.

The Graduate School Convocation will begin at 9 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 College Green.

Graduating seniors receive their diplomas at departmental ceremonies immediately following the academic exercises on The College Green.