Distributed May 14, 2002
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Kate Bramson

The 234th Commencement

Ruth Bader Ginsburg to deliver baccalaureate address May 26

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will address graduating seniors at Brown’s baccalaureate service on Sunday, May 26, 2002, at 1:30 p.m. in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will deliver the baccalaureate address to graduating seniors at Brown University on Sunday, May 26, 2002, at 1:30 p.m. in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America.

Born in 1933 and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., by Jewish-American parents whose families immigrated to the United States, Ginsburg has a rich history of working within the legal system to ensure that women have the same choices and opportunities as men. This will be the second time Ginsburg has addressed the Brown community. In November 1999 she delivered the annual Noah Krieger ’93 Memorial Lecture, “The Supreme Court: A Place for Women.”

Because seating in the Meeting House is sufficient only to hold the graduating class, the service will be simulcast to The College Green, where parents and friends are invited to view the service on a large video screen.

For the service, the Lion Dance will lead the procession into the Meeting House. A Chinese New Year tradition that was incorporated into the service in 1993, the Lion banishes evil spirits and brings good luck to the places where he dances. The baccalaureate service will then open with the Muslim call to prayer. It will include a Hindu blessing, a Baha’i reading, a Christian reading, a Jewish text and a text from the Zen Buddhist tradition. Also during the service, a memorial quilt that students have created to honor the six Brown alumni and other friends of the Brown community who were killed on Sept. 11 will be presented and dedicated. The video screening on The College Green will also include closed captioning.

“It is a celebrative worship service, designed to reflect the really rich history of faith and religious diversity here at Brown, but also representing the breadth of diversity within the current student population,” said Jennifer Rankin, associate University chaplain.

The baccalaureate is a medieval tradition that incorporates the custom of presenting the candidates for the degree of bachelor (bacci) with the laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration. Historically, Brown’s president delivered the baccalaureate sermon until 1937, when Henry Wriston, the first president who was not a Baptist minister, assumed office. After that, guest preachers and speakers were invited to give the address. Recent baccalaureate speakers include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, theologian and Roman Catholic priest Gustavo Gutierrez and Nobel Peace Prize laureate John Hume.

Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, took her seat Aug. 10, 1993, after President Clinton nominated her as an associate justice. Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg served from 1980 to 1993 on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In 1972, she became the first tenured woman law professor at Columbia Law School, after leaving a position at Rutgers, where she had been since 1963. She was the second woman to join the Rutgers law faculty.

While teaching at Rutgers, Ginsburg assisted the New Jersey affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union in litigating sex-discrimination cases, in particular those on behalf of school teachers who were forced to quit their jobs when they became pregnant. She was then instrumental in launching the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project in the early 1970s and served as the ACLU’s general counsel from 1973 to 1980. From 1972 to 1978, she argued six sex-role stereotyping cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and won five.

Ginsburg graduated first among the women in her undergraduate class at Cornell University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. At Cornell, she met Martin Ginsburg, whom she married after her 1954 graduation. She attended Harvard Law School and received her law degree from Columbia University Law School.