Preparing the gates: Crews painted and cleaned the Van Wickle Gates in advance of the 250th Commencement ceremony on the Brown campus. Nick Dentamaro / Brown University

Brown’s 250th Commencement set for Sunday, May 27

Sunday's procession and University Ceremony on the College Green cap Brown's three-day celebration of Commencement and Reunion Weekend.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown President Christina Paxson will preside over the University’s 250th Commencement on Sunday, May 27, on the College Green. The ceremony concludes Brown’s three-day Commencement and Reunion Weekend, which will bring more than 10,000 people to College Hill.

Brown Commencements have been major events for University guests and Providence residents since the 18th century — many events and exhibitions on Saturday, May 26, and Sunday, May 27, are open to the public. A summary of the weekend’s main events follows here, and additional information and updates are available on the 2018 Commencement website.

Many of the weekend’s Commencement events — including the Baccalaureate Service on Saturday, the procession on Sunday and both the College and University ceremonies on Sunday — will be streamed live on the web via Brown's Live Webcast page.

Graduates and attendees can download a smartphone app with complete information on how to navigate campus during a weekend packed with events.

News Media Access and Credentials

University-issued media credentials are required for access to the procession route, Van Wickle Gates, media platform and student seating area at the University Ceremony. Media credentials will be reserved exclusively for journalists working on assignment for credentialed professional news organizations. Space is limited and the University may limit the total number of credentials awarded.

Members of the media must request credentials by 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 24. Contact Jill Kimball in the Office of University Communications at [email protected] or (401) 863-5450. Please include the professional news organization’s name along with the journalist’s name, telephone number and email address. For requests that are granted, credentials will be made available for pickup on the Brown campus in advance of Commencement weekend.

Throughout the Weekend

Class Reunions
Brown schedules class reunions and Commencement on the same weekend, allowing alumni to welcome graduating seniors into the fold while also celebrating their lifelong connection to the University. Scheduled activities include receptions, forums, an alumni family field day and prominent participation in the Commencement procession down College Hill. New this year is a 40th anniversary celebration of Brown’s Emergency Medical Services team and a Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment (BRYTE) reunion. And, of course, there’s Campus Dance (tickets required). One of Brown’s best-loved traditions, the event brings more than 10,000 people to dance the night away under a sky lit with some 600 paper lanterns. The bash concludes with a festive Senior Sing at midnight on the steps of Sayles Hall. 

Brown’s museums and galleries are open to University guests and the general public during Commencement Weekend. Among the exhibitions on display:

Saturday, May 26

Commencement Forums
A Commencement Weekend tradition for more than four decades, the Commencement Forums include lectures, discussions and performances by faculty, alumni and guests who are nationally recognized authorities in their fields — with plenty of opportunity for audience questions and comments. This year’s forums, 23 in all, address timely issues on topics that range from mindfulness to women’s leadership to structural racism. Saturday’s forums begin at 9 and 11 a.m. and at 12:30, 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. Full details and schedules are here. A sampling:

  • “The Fluidity of Sculpture” — Visual artist Giuseppe Penone, who will receive an honorary degree from Brown, will discuss the ways in which his art positions human beings in an equal relationship with nature and the environment.
  • “America’s Mass Incarceration Problem” — In a discussion moderated by Edward Steinfeld, director of Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, panelists will explore the origins of mass incarceration in the U.S., how it got to this point and where we go from here.
  • “Making Waves: Brown Women Activists” — Hear the stories of visionary Brown alumnae who are taking on systemic injustice with creativity, courage and a passion for social change.
  • “A Random Walk through Physics to the Nobel Prize” — Physicist and mountaineer J. Michael Kosterlitz, who won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics and will receive an honorary degree from Brown, shares the story of his crooked path through life, from Oxbridge to Turin to Birmingham to Brown.
  • “Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture” — Lonnie G. Bunch, who will receive an honorary degree, will discuss with Anthony Bogues, director of Brown’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the process of conceiving, building and launching the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  • “For Giving” — Actor, activist and UNICEF U.K. Ambassador Trudie Styler, who will receive an honorary degree, will explore connections between her artistic passions and her activism and will reflect on the importance of protecting the Earth and its people.
  • “Exile and the Return to Community” — Singer-songwriter, author and activist Sting, who will receive an honorary degree, will speak and sing about how growing up in the shadow of the shipyards gave him imaginative access to a whole new cast of characters whose stories he wanted to tell.

Baccalaureate Service   2:30 p.m. | Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America
Brown’s Baccalaureate tradition derives from the immense range of religious, ethnic, geographic, linguistic and musical traditions present within the campus community. The ceremony includes rituals, readings, poetry and prayers from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Native American, animist and other religious and cultural traditions, as well as dancing, choral and instrumental music, a Chinese lion dance, and Taiko and Senegalese drumming. Because the Meeting House can accommodate only the graduating class, the service will be simulcast for family and friends, who can watch it on the College Green and in the Salomon Center for Teaching. This year’s Baccalaureate address will be delivered by Beverly Ledbetter, who retires this year after serving as Brown’s chief legal officer for four decades and will receive an honorary degree on Sunday.

Military Commissioning and Graduating Veterans Ceremony   4:30 p.m. | The Front Green
The 2018 ceremony marks three Brown students’ transitions from officer trainees to leaders of soldiers. Mahmoud Samori, a Ph.D. candidate in classics, will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army; Spencer Goodrich, who will graduate with a master’s degree in public administration, will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force; and Caleb Walters, a fourth-year student in Brown’s program in liberal medical education, will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army before beginning his studies at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School. The ceremony will also honor 23 U.S. military veterans who are receiving Brown degrees in 2018: Andrew Campbell, Frederick Carlson, Christopher Casares, Jonathan Chang, Angela Cunningham, Maurice Decaul, Jeffrey Fowlkes, Jeffrey Hall, Phillip Hickson, Tristan Hood, Timothy Johnston, Jonathan Macomber, Benjamin Maynard, John McCrillis, Catrina Mueller-Leonhard, Monica Munoz, Michael Perrottet, Jacob Pompey, Justin Ryan, Mary (Becky) Scheusner, Steven Tedeschi, Adam Wichman and Laura Woods. A reception will follow the ceremony in the same location.

Waterfire    8:10 p.m. | Downtown Providence
Waterfire, a celebrated work of public art brought to life by 1975 Brown graduate Barnaby Evans, will ignite a line of bonfires atop Providence’s downtown rivers.

Sunday, May 27

Commencement Procession   9:45 a.m. | The Van Wickle Gates
The University’s ceremonial Van Wickle Gates open for only two reasons: when new students enter campus to begin their studies and when new graduates depart for the world beyond Brown. The procession begins at 9:45 a.m. at the Van Wickle Gates. In order to accommodate graduates, families and friends who wish to take photographs, the Van Wickle Gates will remain open until 6 p.m. on Monday, May 28.

Warren Alpert Medical School Ceremony   10:15 a.m. | First Unitarian Church
Dr. Jack A. Elias, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of medicine and biological sciences, will preside over the ceremony and will administer the Physician’s Oath, a version of the Hippocratic Oath prepared by the M.D. Class of 1975, the school’s first graduating class. This year’s graduating class of 120 will begin their practices with residency training. The ceremony will feature two addresses:

  • Amos Charles, clinical associate professor of medicine, will deliver the faculty address, titled, “Yes, I am a Doctor. Perspectives on What Is Important.” 
  • Josh Johnson will present the student address, titled, “What is Our Social History?”

Doctoral Ceremony 10:15 a.m. | Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle
Andrew Campbell, dean of the Graduate School, will preside, joined by Brown Corporation member Maria T. Zuber, who earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Brown in 1983 and 1986, respectively. Highlights of the ceremony include:

  • Presentation of the Horace Mann Medal to Silvia Elena Giorguli Saucedo, a 2004 Brown doctoral graduate and the first female president of El Colegio de México, a top research and teaching university for social sciences and humanities in Mexico. Established in 2003 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Graduate School and to honor the esteemed educator, an 1819 Brown graduate, the Horace Mann Medal is awarded to a Brown graduate who has made significant contributions in their field.
  • The doctoral student address will be delivered by Pinar Durgun, who will receive her Ph.D. in archaeology and the ancient world. Durgun was selected as the speaker by the Graduate Student Council. 
  • Presentation of Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Awards to Ph.D. candidates Megan Cole, health services research; David Meir Mittelman, Portuguese and Brazilian studies; Maria Cecilia Hwang, American studies; and Sameer Subramanian Iyer, applied mathematics. 

Master’s Ceremony 10:30 a.m. | Pembroke Field
Shayna Kessel, associate dean of the Graduate School, will preside, joined by Deputy Provost Joseph S. Meisel, along with representatives of the schools of engineering, public health and professional studies. Highlights of the ceremony include:

  • The master’s student address will be delivered by Javier Juarez, who will receive his master’s degree in American studies. Juarez was selected as the speaker by the Graduate Student Council.
  • Awarding of three Master’s Awards for: (1) Academic Accomplishment: Andrew Steven Campbell, history; (2) Professional Excellence: David Aaron, executive master’s in cybersecurity; (3) Engaged Citizenship and Community Service: Joyce Sunday, biotechnology.
  • The Graduate Student Council will present awards to two staff members who have made outstanding contributions to the Graduate School: Catherine Hanni, the academic department manager for Egyptology and Assyriology at Brown, and Carin Algava, assistant director for teacher education in Brown’s Department of Education.

College Ceremony   12:15 p.m. | Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America
Since 1776, all but two Brown University Commencements have been held at the Meeting House. In 2006, when the graduating senior class had grown too large to be safely accommodated, the students voted to preserve the tradition by holding a portion of the Commencement ceremony on the church grounds. President Christina Paxson will greet the class, deliver remarks and confer bachelor degrees on the church grounds. The ceremony will be live-streamed for family and friends to view via screens on the College Green and in the Salomon Center for Teaching.

University Ceremony   1:15 p.m. | The College Green
Graduating seniors march back up College Hill to the College Green, where they join family members, friends and guests for the University ceremony, which includes:

Senior Orators
Since its founding in 1764, Brown has selected members of the graduating class to speak during the Commencement ceremony. Two members of the Class of 2018 were chosen by a committee of students, faculty and administrators to deliver orations at Commencement:

  • Naomi Chasek-Macfoy, an Africana studies concentrator from Brooklyn, New York, will deliver an oration titled “Walking Out, 50 Years Later.”
  • Lexi Lerner, a biology concentrator from Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, will deliver an oration titled “The Bravery of Bridges.”

Honorary Degrees
Honorary degrees are awarded by the Board of Fellows of the Brown Corporation and conferred by the University president — in English and in Latin — on the College Green. The University will honor seven candidates who have achieved great distinction in their fields:

Awarding of Diplomas   2:30 | Various locations
Graduating seniors receive their diplomas at more than 50 departmental ceremonies immediately following the University ceremony. Location information, including a map and key, is printed in the Commencement program, which will be available online on Sunday morning.