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Distributed May 4, 2004
Contact Mark Nickel

Overview: 2004 Commencement/Reunion Weekend
Brown University to hold 236th Commencement Monday, May 31

More than 6,000 people will march down College Hill on Memorial Day, May 31, 2004, in one of the nation’s largest and most colorful academic pageants. The procession and academic exercises cap a four-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend on the Brown campus.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — On Monday morning, May 31, 2004, Chief Marshal Norma Munves of the Fiftieth Reunion Class of 1954 will lead more than 6,000 graduates, alumni, faculty, parent educators and University guests in a march down College Hill. The mile-long procession, accompanied by an entourage of bagpipers, highland drummers, television cameras and marching bands, will mark the beginning of Brown University’s 236th Commencement exercises, capping a four-day Commencement-Reunion Weekend.


The 2004 Chief Marshal
Norma Munves, Class of 1954, is a trustee emerita of the University. She has served as a member of the Corporation Committee on Administration and Financial Aid, as national chair of the Brown Annual Fund, as a class officer, as chair of the class reunion gift committee, and as vice president for the New York Brown Club. Her father, sister, husband and two daughters all graduated from Brown. She is a director of James Robinson Inc., an antique jewelry firm.

This year’s procession will also be the last to occur on Memorial Day. Beginning with Commencement 2005, the University’s Commencement exercises will be held on the Sunday before the last Monday in May.

The ceremonial Van Wickle Gates, which opened inward to admit the Class of 2004 four years ago, will swing outward for the graduates’ symbolic march into the world beyond Brown. The procession steps off at 8:30 a.m., led by candidates for medical degrees, then graduate degrees, then bachelor’s degrees.

Editors: A calendar of the weekend’s main events is included at the end of this release. Additional Commencement news releases (honorary degree recipients, Commencement forums, concerts and events, etc.) will be forthcoming. Contact the News Service – (401) 863-2476 – or consult the News Service Web site – – for updates.

Credentials will be required for any Commencement/Reunion events that are open to press. Reporters and photographers may register for credentials by calling Dionne Montgomery in the News Service at (401) 863-2476 or by sending e-mail to [email protected]. Include your name, the organization you represent, and both telephone and e-mail contact information. Credentials will be available at the News Service during business hours beginning Thursday, May 27.

Brown’s Monday-morning Commencement exercises include three separate convocations prior to the all-University exercises on The College Green:

  • Medical students will gather at 8:45 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church for their degree ceremonies and administration of the Physician’s Oath by Interim Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Richard W. Besdine, M.D.
  • Graduate students will assemble for ceremonies at 9 a.m. on Lincoln Field (behind Sayles Hall), where Dean of the Graduate School Karen A. Newman will preside.
  • Undergraduates will march to the First Baptist Church in America, site of all Brown Commencements since 1775, for the symbolic awarding of the baccalaureate degree, beginning at 10:30 a.m. President Ruth J. Simmons will preside.

By approximately 11:30 a.m., more than 10,000 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 Simmons will deliver formal Latin salutations to nearly 1,500 baccalaureate candidates, 500 candidates for advanced degrees and nine candidates for honorary degrees. Flags from 64 nations, representing the homelands of the Class of 2004, will be flown during the University ceremony.

Because the graduating Class of 2004 fills 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, which will include captioning. The University provides 12,000 folding chairs for graduates and their guests, but Commencement is usually a standing-room-only event. In case of rain on Monday, an audio feed will be available for parents and guests in Meehan Auditorium, Hope Street at Lloyd Avenue, and in Sayles Hall and the Salomon Center for Teaching.


By long tradition, Brown does not invite a single main speaker to deliver a Commencement address to graduating seniors, but asks a number of individuals, including students, to contribute remarks at the various Commencement convocations. This year’s speakers will include:

  • Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi will deliver the baccalaureate address to graduating seniors on Sunday, May 30, 2004, at 1:30 p.m. in the First Baptist Church of America. Her address will be translated into English. Because seating in the church is sufficient only for the graduating class, family and friends may watch a large-screen video simulcast of the service on The College Green.
  • Jonathan Doris, M.D., former resident in internal medicine at Brown and current medical advisor to the NBC sitcom “Scrubs,” will address the medical graduating class at 8:45 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church. Doris is a cardiology fellow at Kaiser Permanente Hospital-UCLA. George Goslow Jr., professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will deliver the faculty address, and Kerri Nottage, a candidate for the M.D. degree, will deliver the student address.
  • World Wildlife Fund President and CEO Kathryn Fuller, a 1968 Brown graduate and member of the Board of Fellows, will address candidates for advanced degrees at the Graduate School Convocation at 9 a.m. on Lincoln Field. Miguel Moniz, a doctoral candidate in anthropology, will also address his colleagues.
  • Graduating seniors Marian Thorpe, of Spokane, Wash., and Russell Baruffi, of Vineland, N.J., will deliver the senior orations to their classmates on Monday, May 31, at 10:30 a.m. in the First Baptist Church in America.

Departmental ceremonies

Receiving a bachelor’s degree at Brown is a three-step process. First, during College ceremonies at the First Baptist Church in America, President Simmons will present candidates for the bachelor’s degree to members of the Corporation, who will authorize her to confer the degrees. Second, during University ceremonies on The College Green, Simmons will confer all bachelor’s degrees symbolically by presenting a diploma to one recipient 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, approximately 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 Commencement Weekend events or who are eligible for reserved handicap parking should contact the University. Call the Office of University Events at (401) 863-2474 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Closed captioning will be available on The College Green for the weekend’s major ceremonies.

Rain Plan

If Monday is damp or threatening, outdoor activities will proceed as scheduled. If steady rain begins, a yellow pennant will be flown from the flagpole on The College Green, indicating that the rain plan is in effect. In that event, Commencement ceremonies scheduled for The College Green will take place at 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 listen to an audio feed of the ceremonies in Meehan Auditorium, Hope Street at Lloyd Avenue, and in Sayles Hall and the Salomon Center for Teaching.


More than 3,500 Brown alumni/ae, friends and family will return to the campus for reunion celebrations which surround Commencement. Further information on reunion activities is available from the Commencement/Reunion Voice Mail Information Line: (401) 863-7000.

The Commencement/Reunion Weekend schedule

Friday, May 28

  • 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 29

  • Commencement Forums begin at 9 a.m. with sessions also scheduled for 10:15 a.m., 2:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Twenty-one hour-long forums will feature internationally respected authorities on issues from the surface of Mars to management fraud, the Broadway theater, the 25th anniversary of computer science at Brown, medicine, slavery and retrospective justice, and Albert Einstein’s biggest blunder.
  • Alumni Field Day runs from noon to 4 p.m. at Aldrich-Dexter Field, featuring music, games and amusements. (Rain site: Olney-Margolies Athletic Center.)
  • The 23rd Annual Dr. Carl and Dorothy O. Jagolinzer Memorial Recital, featuring outstanding graduating seniors, begins at 4 p.m. in Grant Recital Hall.
  • The 40th Annual Pops Concert, sponsored by the Brown Club of Rhode Island and the Pembroke Club of Providence, begins at 9 p.m. at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. Multiple Grammy Award winners, Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville will be performing The Great American Songbook as arranged by Nelson Riddle.

Sunday, May 30

  • The All-Reunion Presidential Address will begin at 10 a.m. on Lincoln Field. Brown President Ruth J. Simmons will speak about the year at Brown and plans for the University’s future growth and academic enrichment.
  • University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson will officiate at the All-Class Memorial Service to celebrate the lives of deceased classmates, 11:15 a.m. in Sayles Hall.
  • The 2004 Baccalaureate Service begins at 1:30 p.m. in the First Baptist Church in America. The service is preceded by an academic procession at 12:45 p.m. Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi will deliver the baccalaureate address. Because seating in the church is sufficient only for the graduating class, family and friends may watch a large-screen video simulcast of the service on The College Green.

Monday, May 31

  • The Commencement Procession, with its traditional walk through the Van Wickle Gates, begins at 8:30 a.m. Candidates for medical degrees march first, then candidates for graduate degrees, then the undergraduate Class of 2004.
  • The Medical School Convocation begins at 8:45 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church, Interim Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Richard W. Besdine, M.D., presiding.
  • The Graduate School Convocation begins at 9 a.m. on Lincoln Field, Dean of the Graduate School Karen A. Newman presiding.
  • The College Ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. in the First Baptist Church in America, President Ruth J. Simmons presiding.
  • The University ceremony begins at approximately 11:30 a.m. on The College Green, President Simmons presiding.
  • Undergraduates receive their diplomas at departmental ceremonies at various locations, beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m.


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