Date May 16, 2019
Media Contact

Brown’s 251st Commencement set for Sunday, May 26

Sunday's procession and University Ceremony on the College Green will cap Brown's three-day celebration of Commencement and Reunion Weekend 2019.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown President Christina Paxson will preside over the University’s 251st Commencement on Sunday, May 26, on the College Green. The ceremony concludes Brown’s three-day Commencement and Reunion Weekend 2019, which will bring more than 10,000 people to College Hill.

Many of them will watch acclaimed actor, writer and director John Krasinski, a Brown Class of 2001 graduate, deliver the Baccalaureate address to the University’s undergraduate Class of 2019 on Saturday afternoon in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. With that space reserved for members of the graduating class, the address will be presented on video screens across campus.

Brown Commencements have been major events for University guests and Providence residents since the 18th century. Many of the weekend’s events are open to the public — a summary follows here, and additional information and updates are available on the Commencement 2019 website.

Many of the weekend’s 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. Graduates and attendees can also 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 and media platform 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 23. 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 the weekend.

Friday, May 24

Class Reunions, Campus Dance

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. 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.

Saturday, May 25

A Commencement and Reunion Weekend tradition for more than four decades, the 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, 20 in total, address timely issues on topics that range from human health to the promise and perils of diversity to women in media and entertainment. Others will explore topics related to the 50th anniversary of Brown’s Open Curriculum. Saturday’s forums begin at 9 and 11 a.m. and at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Full details and schedules are here.

Baccalaureate Service   2:00 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 multifaith service incorporates many spiritual and cultural traditions, embraces lively expressions of thanksgiving, harmony and rhythm, and includes music, dance, student performances and spiritual readings. 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, the Salomon Center for Teaching or Sayles Hall. This year’s Baccalaureate address will be delivered by acclaimed actor, writer and director John Krasinski, a Brown Class of 2001 graduate who will receive an honorary degree on Sunday.

Graduating Veterans Recognition and Commissioning Ceremony   4:30 p.m. | Rhode Island Hall
Convened by the Office of Military-Affiliated Students, the annual ceremony will celebrate the success of graduating student veterans and the commissioning of graduating ROTC students as they begin their careers as U.S. Army Officers. The event offers an opportunity to connect across classes, talk with current student veterans and hear about recent Brown initiatives. A reception will follow.

Sunday, May 26

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 Faunce Arch. 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 27.

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 129 will begin their practices with residency training. Dr. Allan Tunkel, senior associate dean for medical education and professor of medicine, will deliver the faculty address, titled “A View from the Bed.” Graduate Jonathan Staloff will present the student address, titled “Yes, I am a Doctor. Perspective on what is important.”

Doctoral Ceremony 10:30 a.m. | Pembroke Field
Andrew G. Campbell, dean of the Graduate School, will preside, and more than 200 graduates will receive doctoral degrees. Jennifer Thum, who will earn her Ph.D. in archaeology and the ancient world, will deliver the student address. Highlights of the ceremony also include presentation of the Horace Mann Medal and the Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Awards.

Master’s Ceremony 10:30 a.m. | Meehan Auditorium
Shayna Kessel, associate dean of master’s education at the Graduate School, will preside, along with representatives of the schools of engineering, public health and professional studies. More than 800 students will receive master’s and executive master’s degrees. The student address will be delivered by Eunice Gonzalez-Sierra, who will receive her master’s degree in teaching. Gonzalez-Sierra was selected as the speaker by the Graduate Student Council.

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, the Salomon Center for Teaching and Sayles Hall.

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 2019 were chosen by a committee of students, faculty and administrators to deliver orations at Commencement:

  • Ruth Miller, a development studies concentrator from Anchorage, Alaska
  • Patricia Rodarte, a student in the eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education from El Paso, Texas

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:

  • Sheryl Brissett Chapman — Advocate and nonprofit innovator
  • Ken Burns — Documentary filmmaker
  • John Krasinski — Actor, writer and director
  • Jennifer Anne Richeson — Social scientist and thought leader
  • David M. Rubenstein — Global business leader and patriotic philanthropist
  • E. Paul Sorensen — Business leader and philanthropist
  • Joan Wernig Sorensen — Fundraising consultant and philanthropist

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.