Date May 23, 2024
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A spirited celebration: Sights, sounds and stories from Commencement and Reunion 2024

Brown’s big weekend offers graduation ceremonies, alumni reunions and a multitude of other opportunities for graduates, alumni, family and friends to honor accomplishments and reunite.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University’s first Commencement was held in 1769 — and since 1928, the annual celebration of new graduates has been accompanied by the return of alumni from across many generations for class reunions hosted during the same weekend.

That all adds up to a busy celebratory weekend. In 2024, more than 15,000 people will participate in events ranging from Campus Dance and Bruno’s Block Party to forums, graduation ceremonies and the one-of-a-kind Commencement procession through the Van Wickle Gates.

Here, Brown's communications team will do its best to keep up with the wealth of activities on campus and share a few sights, sounds and stories from throughout the weekend.

Video highlights from Sunday

From a spirited procession and senior orations to the College Ceremony and the official conferral of degrees, the final day of Brown’s Commencement and Reunion Weekend 2024 was as exciting as the first two. Highlights are here courtesy of video producers Stephen Crocker and Oliver Scampoli.

At the academic department ceremony for graduates who earned bachelor’s degrees in international and public affairs, Charles and Maritza Banks waited eagerly amid rows of parents, families and friends, ready to capture the pivotal moment when their daughter, Charlinda, would walk across the stage in the Meehan Auditorium to collect her diploma.

Eight family members, spanning from siblings and cousins to aunts and uncles, journeyed from New York and Florida to witness Charlinda's triumph. The moment was steeped in extra meaning, as they had missed her high school graduation in Spring 2020, a result of COVID-19.

"The school tried to make it special with a drive-by celebration, but it wasn't the same as a traditional ceremony,” said Charles Banks. “This graduation, however, is different. Everyone can be here to celebrate, and it's truly an exciting and memorable moment for all of us."

Similar sentiments were expressed at more than 50 department ceremonies across campus, where graduates processed across stages individually with their degrees symbolically conferred.

Charles and Maritza reflected on Charlinda's journey from a timid high schooler to a poised college graduate, ready for her next adventure. After graduating from Brown, Charlinda will move to Boston to begin working in communications at the Boston Ballet.

"Her resilience has grown tremendously," said Maritza Banks. "She gained more confidence, made new friends, and became much stronger. I feel like she can go out and venture into the world."

As Charlinda's name was called, the Banks family erupted into cheers, their pride and joy echoing through the auditorium. Charles ran close to the stage to capture a photo and hug her as she exited, while Maritza watched from her chair, smiling, clapping and cheering. It was truly a triumph for the entire family.


For most members of Brown University’s Class of 2024, the last days of high school and the first days of college came at an inauspicious time. With the COVID-19 public health emergency’s arrival, graduations were canceled or held virtually, summer plans were nixed, and most students spent Fall 2020 in limbo — no longer high school students, but not yet truly college students.

From masks to mortarboards, and pandemics to protests, the last four years have offered an unconventional and at times challenging college experience for most of the class.

“It started with a global pandemic that killed too many people and ground the world economy to a near halt,” Brown President Christina H. Paxson told class members on Sunday, May 26. “It ended with dreadful violence that has claimed the lives of too many Palestinians and Israelis, and generated tension, unrest and activism on college campuses. I am certain that this was not what you expected when you applied to Brown.”

Despite the fear and isolation brought about during the early days of COVID-19, students adapted, connected in unconventional ways, created communities and persevered upon their arrival to campus in 2020, according to senior orators Marielle Buxbaum and Caziah Mayers.

“We had to make extraordinary efforts to make friends and build community,” Buxbaum said. “From our extraordinary efforts came extraordinary bonds.”

Mayers marveled at the Class of 2024’s distinct camaraderie and resilience.

“We built communities online through social media when we couldn’t meet in person, we learned to run organizations with limited access to older students, ultimately we cultivated a unique Brown experience, and we made do with the hand we were dealt,” Mayers said. “I’m proud of us for moving through a time of such incredible hardship and for how we did it together.”

Read the full story on the News from Brown website...

At its 256th Commencement on Sunday, May 26, Brown University conferred honorary doctorates on eight candidates who have achieved great distinction in a variety of fields. The recipients included:

  • Tom Geismar — Graphic design pioneer
  • Claudia Goldin — Nobel Laureate and economist
  • Perry Kasper Granoff — Community leader and champion of the arts
  • Joy Harjo — Twenty-third U.S. poet laureate
  • Pedro Noguera — Scholar of education and equity
  • Sarah Ruhl — Playwright and poet
  • Jerome C. Vascellaro and Mary Elizabeth Vascellaro (joint degree) — Business leader and champion of Brown, and community leader and champion of Brown alumnae, respectively

Honorary degrees are awarded by the Board of Fellows of the Corporation of Brown University. They were conferred by University President Christina H. Paxson during Commencement exercises. The text from the honorary degree citations read aloud during the ceremony and presented to each recipient is included on the News from Brown website. Biographical notes are included in the University’s announcement of the 2024 recipients.

Read the full story on the News from Brown website...

The Brown University faculty presented their peer Rena R. Wing with the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal of Honor during the University’s 256th Commencement on Sunday, May 26.

The Rosenberger Medal is the highest honor the Brown faculty can bestow and has been awarded just 35 times since its establishment in 1919. Among the previous honorees are Nobel laureates, University presidents and chancellors, pioneering Brown faculty and esteemed public servants.

Faculty Executive Committee Chair Steven Sloman, a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, presented the medal to Wing, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior and the founder and director of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, during the University Ceremony. On behalf of the full Brown faculty, Sloman read the award citation.

Wing was recognized for her pioneering work on behavioral treatments for obesity and the prevention of diabetes and vascular disease which have had “a major impact on clinical practice and health outcomes,” the citation said.

It also commended Wing for her “training and mentoring of outstanding scientists — the next generation of pioneering researchers,” a “commitment to serving scientific, professional and community organizations,” and for her leadership of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, where, it noted, faculty and staff “perform cutting-edge research combating obesity and related health complications.”

“Your work has had a major impact on the health of people in Rhode Island and across the country,” Sloman read from the citation. “We are proud to bestow upon you the highest honor that the faculty can offer.”

Brown alumna Lillian Affleck is spirited and tenacious, known for her resilience and her inspiring zest for life. At 101 years old, she embodied that signature determination as she processed through the Van Wickle Gates during Brown’s Commencement and Reunion Weekend procession on Sunday in honor of her 80th reunion, and as one of only a few living alumni from the Class of 1944.

“She refuses to give up,” said her son, Paul Affleck. “She is one of the most stubborn people I have ever met, looking life directly in the eye and saying, ‘Bring it on. Let’s go.’”

Over the years, Lillian Affleck has remained an active and dedicated Brown alumna, often taking on the role of reunion chair for her class. To honor her lifelong connection to her alma mater, she decided she would participate in the procession one more time.

And the Affleck family, including Lillian’s children and grandchildren, came together to celebrate her historic walk through the gates. “Brown has been a huge part of her life, going back to her days at Pembroke [College]. Her lifelong friends, the memories — it all means so much to her,” her son reflected.

Affleck beamed as she made her way through the gates, enveloped in a vibrant tapestry of colors and sounds, including the sounds of the Brown University Band and shouts of “Congratulations!” from faculty, staff and family members who lined the path and waved flags. Affleck walked down College Street arm in arm with her two daughters, Joan and MaryBeth.

“This might be her last walk down the hill, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s here for next year’s reunion at 102,” her son added with a smile.

With the outward swing of the Van Wickle Gates, Commencement is a time for graduates to celebrate their time at Brown and reflect on what lies ahead. Lined up on Waterman Street before Sunday’s Commencement procession and surrounded by fellow members of the Class of 2024 — cheering, taking selfies and enjoying each other’s company — a few graduates shared what they’d miss most and where they are off to next.

Ange Zelie Karondo will miss the people she encountered at Brown, who became her found family, especially as an international student from Burundi in East Africa. “The people here helped me push through,” said Karondo, who plans to stay in Providence to start a career in health advocacy.

Beenish Valliani, from Dallas, said her interactions with faculty taught her new perspectives on life and introduced different experiences for which she can prepare. Valliani concentrated in mathematics, computer science and philosophy, and is looking to enter a career working with artificial intelligence and machine learning back in Dallas.

As he waited for his friends to join him, Ayan Rahman said he’d miss the walkability of College Hill and the local cultural offerings. “It’s going to be hard to find another space like this,” said Rahman, who concentrated in urban studies. It’s why he was determined to take in the moment and savor the cheers and encouragement from Brown alumni lining the procession before preparing for his move to Madrid to start a teaching fellowship.

“It’s so awesome to see so many alumni come back and greet us with open arms,” Rahman said. “It just reaffirms the idea that Brown is a lifelong community.”

Under the shade of a tree on Waterman Street before the Commencement procession, Kristophe Yen was surrounded by family who traveled from Jamaica to see him graduate from Brown. He thanked his family as they took selfies and congratulated him. At that moment, Yen said, one of the thoughts running through his mind was his wish to set a good example.

“I’m definitely the first person in my family — especially from the generation of our family coming from Jamaica — to come to an Ivy League institution,” said Yen, who was born in the Bronx. “It’s a very big moment for my family… hopefully I’m the first of many. The hope is that my little sister and little cousin [who are here watching] come to school here, too.”

Yen said the experience wasn’t easy, from the academic rigor to the adjustment to being away from home. But he always had his family in the back of his mind, and at Brown, he found a community of friends who helped him whenever he thought he might not be able to persist.

“They became the best support system I could have,” said Yen, who concentrated in computer science.

Looking at his friends gathered near him, he said: “We’re here, and we did it.”

Call it the procession of brotherly love. At least that’s how it felt for twins Benjamin and Joshua Phelps.

Four years ago, the pair walked together through the Van Wickle Gates into the Brown community at Opening Convocation. At Commencement on Sunday, they passed through the gates once more as graduating seniors. Processing next to each other, the brothers recalled their educational experiences at Brown.

Both drawn to Brown’s Open Curriculum, they pursued complementary yet distinct interests during their time at the University. Benjamin, who studied design engineering, focused on mechanical engineering projects, while Joshua, who studied computer science and engineering, focused on electrical engineering and software-related work to build skills in robotics. They also took on multiple projects together, including working in the same lab and taking time to mentor high school students who designed a custom wheelchair for a local child.

“It’s a special moment for us; we’ve had lots of great moments together,” Joshua said. “Graduation is a celebration of everything we’ve learned and the projects we’ve done at Brown.”

Next fall, they will both start working toward master’s degrees at Stanford University, where they will be roommates for the first time since leaving home.

“I expect that to be fun,” said Joshua. “We’re glad we’ve been at Brown together and that we’ll be staying together.”

Looking out on a sea of caps and gowns, student speaker Deanna Stueber spoke about the passion, tenacity and community she and each of her fellow Ph.D. recipients summoned to achieve their degrees.

During her address at Brown University’s Doctoral Ceremony on Pembroke Field on Sunday, Stueber reflected on the triumphs and struggles that many Ph.D. students experienced — from moments of elation to adversities and lows — and she celebrated their strength and drive to push forward.

“This degree didn’t get completed just because you wished for it,” said Stueber, who earned her doctoral degree in biomedical engineering. “This dream didn’t get realized overnight. It happened because you showed up for yourself. You showed up not just when it was easy. You showed up when you were tired, when you were sick, when you wanted to quit and — let’s be really honest for a moment — you showed up when you didn’t even think that you could do it at all.”

To illustrate the journeys of the 146 doctoral degree recipients, Stueber offered an analogy, comparing the roadblocks, hardships and delays that Ph.D. students overcame with the challenges of navigating the roads and traffic around Providence.

“If you have ever taken a drive through Providence, you already know exactly what a Ph.D. is like: unpredictable, occasionally bumpy and always an adventure,” Stueber said. “We have all gone through different journeys to today, but today we have all made it to the same destination.”

The Doctoral Ceremony also included the presentation of the Horace Mann Medal, awarded annually by the Graduate School to a graduate who has made significant contributions to their professional field. This year’s recipient was Fyodor Urnov, a Class of 1996 Brown Ph.D. graduate and a trailblazer in therapeutic genome editing whose research focuses on developing medicines for devastating genetic diseases.

When Sudheesha Perera recalled the early days of medical school, which included quarantines, frequent testing for COVID-19 and learning to identify classmates by their eyes and foreheads since their faces were partially obscured by masks, his fellow graduates at Brown’s 2024 Warren Alpert Medical School Ceremony knew exactly what he meant.

Perera, the graduate who was selected to speak at Sunday’s ceremony at the First Unitarian Church, celebrated the successful completion of medical school for the 133 students earning M.D.s and reflected, with a focus on 2020, on the process of becoming a doctor.

During the pandemic, the Class of 2024 worked to “find purpose amid chaos,” Perera said. He praised his peers for volunteering at contact tracing sites, delivering food to high-risk community members and providing childcare for physicians working extra shifts at Brown’s affiliated hospitals. The adaptability and compassion they developed during COVID’s early days will serve them well in their medical careers, he said.

“What got us through that pandemic was human connection, faith in our public health officials, trust in scientists and researchers, and ultimately, the bond between health care providers and the public,” Perera said. “As we look to learn from the last four years, it couldn’t be more obvious the role that humanity will play in our ability to weather the next storm.”

The power of presence was underscored by Dr. Fred Schiffman in the ceremony’s faculty address.

“Patients are more than their images on a computer screen,” said Schiffman, one of Perera’s mentors. “The poetry of your presence may sometimes soothe your patients better than science, and you will often treat despair along with disease.”

Perera and Schiffman urged the newly minted M.D.s (and themselves) to make an effort to continue to be present, both when they received their ceremonial hoods and degrees on this momentous day, as well as throughout their careers treating patients.

From class reunions, Campus Dance and Commencement Forums to the Master’s Ceremony, block parties and the Baccalaureate, the first two days of Brown’s Commencement and Reunion Weekend 2024 have been action-packed. Highlights are here courtesy of video producers Stephen Crocker and Oliver Scampoli.

Tom Momberg grew up in a musical family, with parents and siblings who not only loved to sing but did it well. When Momberg came to Brown in the late 1960s to study ethnomusicology, he found another musical family: the Jabberwocks, the oldest of Brown’s 14 a cappella groups. He sang with them throughout college and also served as their musical director.

Momberg, who graduated in 1971, was back at Brown this weekend for the Jabberwocks’ 75th reunion concert. He has been looking forward to this since 2019, when he reconnected with a Jabberwock pal, Dave Cooper of the Class 1973, and met Phyllis Hollenbeck, of the same class (and M.D. Class of 1977). The three kept in touch via Zoom, and on Saturday evening, they performed one of Momberg’s favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs, “American Tune.”

“This is the first time we’ve been able to sing together,” Momberg said.

The trio wasn’t the only group harmonizing with old and new friends. While singers tended to group together by decade, several current Jabberwocks performed with those from the 2010s, and a undergraduate soloist sang with the ’90s group. And of course, all Jabberwocks in attendance, from the Class of 1959 to 2023, joined together to perform their traditional farewell song. Brown’s List Art Building auditorium, where the concert was held, was overflowing with ’Wocks of all ages, as well as their families and fans.

Momberg, an Episcopal priest in Memphis, Tennessee, sings for work and for fun, with a community chorale.

“Music has continued to be an important part of my life, all these years later,” he said. “And the Jabberwocks are an incredibly important part, as well. I didn’t want to miss this.”

Margaret Kelley has been coming back to Brown to reunite with members of the undergraduate Class of 1994 and the medical school Class of 1998 for a long time.

She and two classmates from Brown’s Program for Liberal Medical Education, Natalie Hsu and Allen Hsiao, not only remember the Brown University School of Medicine before it was the Warren Apert Medical School, but they’ve also seen how Commencement and Reunion Weekend itself has changed. Before the last two decades, the Baccalaureate Ceremony was previously held on Sunday, they said, with the procession and Commencement ceremonies following on Memorial Day Monday. A pops concert on Saturday night was a favorite event, added Joyce Oen-Hsiao of the Class of 1997. At Brown’s 2024 celebration, new to them was Bruno’s Block Party, where they convened with fellow alumni to enjoy sunshine, snacks and conversation.

Kelley traveled from San Antonio to reunite with Hsu, who lives in upstate New York, the Hsiaos, who live in Connecticut, and many more friends from the PLME program and beyond. At Campus Dance, she said, they celebrated with classmates she hadn’t seen in 30 years. The group planned to attend their class dinner, and they had already visited the Brown Bookstore. 

“It’s fun to see how things change,” said Hsu, noting the new businesses on nearby Thayer Street. One thing that doesn’t change, the group agreed: the SciLi. And, more importantly, the Brown spirit. “Brown remains so welcoming and inviting, and that’s why so many of us keep coming back,” Kelley said. “The Brown magic is still the same.”

While shuttles were available to transport alumni to Bruno’s Block Party near Brown Stadium, one group of friends decided it would be more special to run to the event, making pitstops at three athletics venues where they’d spent a lot of their time at Brown.

Friends from the Class of 2004, Kristen Brumfield Rajagopal and Caci Cambruzzi Jaeger teamed up with Lee Reynolds from the Class of 2005 for a nostalgic jaunt from their hotel to the block party. They had all lived in Harkness House on Wriston Quad while undergraduates at Brown; when they discovered that they were all members of Brown athletics teams, they became training partners as well. Rajagopal was a diver. Jaeger ran track and cross-country. Reynolds was a rower on the Brown crew team.

Back on campus for Commencement and Reunion Weekend 2024, the alumnae said they felt that a group run would be a fun and fitting way to rev up for Saturday’s events, especially after a late, exuberant night at Campus Dance.

“We also wanted to revisit places of meaning to us,” Reynolds said.

They created a scenic 3.5-mile route that passed the Hunter S. Marston Boathouse on the Seekonk River (for Reynolds), the pool at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center (for Rajagopal) and the track at the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center (for Jaeger).

After finishing at the Block Party, the friends, all smiles and barely breaking a sweat, said they were ready to refuel and relax in the company of other Brown classmates.

In a Saturday afternoon address on Brown’s historic College Green — the first time the University held its Master’s Ceremony at that location— student speaker Nadia Tsado encouraged her fellow graduates to draw inspiration from Olympic athletes to overcome life’s challenges.

“Let us use this moment and many others that will come to push through the doubts, and also remind us of what we are capable of,” said Tsado, who earned a master of public health degree.

Tsado, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in California, wove together her personal story with examples of five athletes’ courage, resiliency and strength at the 1968 and 2020 Olympic Games. She spoke about challenges she has encountered, including her father’s death when she was 5 and a serious health condition while at Brown.

Tsado described seeing a friend and classmate on campus on a day when was struggling with her health. “She asked me how I was doing with the brightest smile, and I smiled and burst into tears,” Tsado said. “My friend… listened to my rambling and helped me wipe my tears. She had her own struggles she was enduring, and, in that moment, she encouraged both of us.”

Such experiences, she said, reminded her of the importance of social connection in a world that often emphasizes individual achievement.

“But it is in community that we find strength, resilience and a sense of belonging,” she said. “It is in community that we discover the true meaning of success. Today, as we celebrate our graduation, let us remember that our success is not just our own — it is a collective win for each other, our families, those who are here with us and those who have transitioned on.”

For the first time, the Master’s Ceremony was held on Saturday afternoon on the College Green. The change in timing and location enabled master’s graduates to participate fully in Sunday morning’s Commencement procession, allowed students to have degrees conferred in the heart of campus with their names read as they crossed the stage, and removed the need to limit the number of guests per graduate. The Graduate School, School of Public Health, School of Professional Studies and School of Engineering conferred 953 master’s degrees.

People often ask NASA astronaut Jessica Meir if she was ever scared, perched on a giant stick of dynamite preparing for a shuttle launch to the International Space Station, or during her spacewalks, with only a thin, plastic visor separating her from the vast blackness of the vacuum of space.

But she had been dreaming about those moments since she was five years old, and as an adult, spent years studying and training for such missions. A Baccalaureate address? Not so much.

“I wasn’t scared in space — at least compared to the terror of standing here before you today,” Meir said at the podium in the First Baptist Church in America, where she delivered the Baccalaureate address to the Class of 2024 on Saturday, May 25, the second day of Brown’s 256th Commencement and Reunion Weekend.

The colorful, multi-faith service celebrates Brown’s bachelor’s degree recipients and honors the many spiritual and cultural traditions of the University community one day before their degrees are conferred at Commencement. Meir is no stranger to the tradition: She sat in the pews of this very church 25 years ago as a member of Brown’s Class of 1999.

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Threats to democracy, banned books, the opioid crisis and RNA technology were among the dozen or so timely topics debated at Commencement Forums both educational and inspiring on Saturday at locations across Brown’s campus.

Led by faculty, alumni and distinguished guests, the academic and topical colloquia have been an essential part of Commencement and Reunion Weekend for more than 50 years. This year, hundreds of attendees enjoyed a window into academic life at Brown through the sessions, which also focused on such subjects as deep learning from nature, the DNA editing technology CRISPR, and solving the climate challenge.

Among the speakers were three of this year’s honorary degree candidates: playwright and poet Sarah Ruhl, Nobel laureate and economist Claudia Goldin, and education and equity scholar Pedro Noguera.

In a morning session, Ruhl, who suffered from facial paralysis due to Bell’s palsy for over a decade, discussed her memoir, “Smile,” and narratives around illness and recovery. Her husband, child psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Charuvastra, and Dr. Julie Roth, an associate professor of neurology and medical science at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, joined the discussion.

“Illness can create a discontinuity,” said Ruhl, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1997 and a master of fine arts in playwriting in 2001, both from Brown. “Writing the memoir made the story continuous.”

She added: “What I wanted to do was put the illness in the past tense and the healing in the present tense. Writing can be healing just by banishing illness into the past with your choice of tense.”

In another forum, Noguera, a Brown alumnus who began his teaching career at Providence’s Central High School, and Professor of Sociology Prudence Carter conversed on topics in education, from charter schools to teacher shortages to the implications of AI, and offered recommendations for countering inequity and injustice.

“What I wish we were doing in [K-12] schools is what happened to me at Brown, which is developing a love of learning,” Noguera said. “If you’re a lifelong learner, your ability to adapt to change goes way up.”

From modern to contemporary to ballet to mhande, the performance styles at the Senior Dance Showcase allowed graduating Brown seniors to show off their signature moves to a full house in the Movement Lab in the new Lindemann Performing Arts Center.

Regardless of the focus of their studies, all dancers clearly valued movement as a means of personal expression. Abby Cohen, who concentrated in English, said she felt deeply gratified for the opportunity to dance at Brown, including as part of the Dance Extension, a modern repertory company led by founding director of dance Julie Strandberg.

“Dance was a community for me — a home outside of academics,” Cohen said. She’ll continue to practice and teach dance after settling into a new academic home at Boston University, where she’ll pursue graduate studies in English.

This year’s showcase was the first to be held at The Lindemann thanks to support from family and friends of the late Diana “DeeDee” Issacs Sturr, a Class of 1982 graduate. About a third of the audience had known Sturr, a passionately loyal Brunonian beloved for her joie de vivre.

Several of the dances worked beautifully as tribute performances, even if unintentional. A contemporary number by seniors Jordan Gracia and Norah Kisakye included the song “Somewhere in My Memory” by John Williams and a meditation on death by Eckhart Tolle. 

“We were discussing the ego,” said Kisakye of the inspiration for the duet, “and what it means to shed your past self, your personality, and try to discover your new self and be reborn.”

Regardless of whether the showcase sparked remembrances of past times at Brown or curiosity about next steps after Commencement, the audience was visibly moved — to tears, cheers and a standing ovation.

Reminiscing and reuniting on Wriston Quad

On Friday afternoon, thousands of graduates from across the generations streamed through Wriston Quad to check in, collect Brown buttons and swag, and launch their Commencement and Reunion Weekend celebrations.

Class of 1974 graduates Naomi Segal Deitz and Vicky Williams were delighted to receive 50th reunion tote bags and begin reconnecting with friends and sharing recollections of their time at Brown. Deitz, who traveled from Portland, Oregon, has regularly attended reunions, but anticipated that her 50th will be an even bigger draw for more classmates.

“I know of a few people who are going to be here who I haven’t seen since college,” Deitz marveled. “Reunion is so much fun.”

“This is spectacular,” added Williams, who lives in Richmond, California.

The pair looked forward to visiting their favorite locations at Brown, like Pembroke Campus, and reliving their college days by staying in the residence halls again and “going rustic,” Deitz quipped.

“I wish I had it to do over,” Deitz said of her four years at Brown.

“Me, too,” Williams echoed.

Many other alumni were enthused about revisiting their favorite off-campus haunts. 

“We’ve already had some East Side Pockets — that was first on our list — and Meeting Street [Café] cookies, so we’re checking off all the dining places as well,” Class of 2004 graduate Enrique Rivera said as he made his way through the reunion check-in tent with his wife, Nicole Candelario, and daughters Ana, 7, and Stella, 2, who journeyed from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Class of 1979 graduate Alan Feibelman and his wife, Mara Falk, from St. Petersburg, Florida, were excited to see friends, enjoy Campus Dance, attend Commencement Forums and be back in the heart of campus, both old and new.

“The green is the same, but the new buildings are pretty amazing,” Feibelman said.


After navigating a rigorous academic experience as a Brown student along with the mentally and physically demanding requirements as a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, Hannah Long stood on stage thinking of everyone who helped her get to this moment. And then she took her oath of service, marking a major milestone in her life and a first for Brown at the University’s Graduating Veterans and ROTC Recognition Ceremony on Friday, May 24.

Now a second lieutenant in the U.S. Space Force, Long became the first Brown ROTC student commissioned with the Space Force, and she will soon be off to Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado to continue her military career. For now, that future stayed in the back of her mind as she celebrated the moment with nine other freshly commissioned officers in the U.S. military.

“The people that I commissioned with, I've known since the beginning of freshman year,” said Long, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering on Sunday. “We've all grown up together.”

Also recognized at Brown’s annual event were 15 graduating student-veterans who served as members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The ceremony took place in the Metcalf Research Building, where an overflowing crowd of family, friends, special guests and elected officials filled the auditorium in celebration of Brown’s continually growing military-affiliated community.

“As I was reflecting on my time here [at Brown] and the future of our country's military, it struck me just how lucky our nation is to have Brown graduates join our ranks,” said keynote speaker Alex Wagner, assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force and a Brown alumnus celebrating his 25th reunion.

Next year, the Office of Military-Affiliated Students may need a bigger space for the ceremony, with Brown on track to graduate its largest population of ROTC cadets and military veterans since the Vietnam War.

Soon-to-graduate Brown University students have been donning caps and gowns in recent days and heading to the College Green, the Van Wickle Gates and other meaningful campus sites to strike a pose ahead of the weekend’s Commencement celebrations.

For many, the photos symbolize their hard-won academic achievement, plus the friendships they have built at Brown and hope to sustain for years to come.

That was the case for seniors Eden Allen, Kaylen Pak and Jennora Blair, who asked their friend, junior Ayla Kim, to document their friendship through a carefree photo shoot. The trio met as first-year students: Pak and Allen struck up a relationship through a Zoom meet-up for students interested in art, and Allen and Blair met while living in the same dorm. “That first semester, we’d pass by each other in our masks on our way to pick up meals or get COVID tests,” Allen recalled. 

With their time on campus together quickly coming to a close, they wanted to document “the dynamic we’ve built as friends: caring joy and playful love,” Pak said.

Seniors Roshan Parikh, William Cardone and Daniel Coffield  — who met in 2021 and immediately bonded as fellow transfer students — will cherish the goofy photo a friend took of them pretending to bite into their Commencement caps in front of the Van Wickle Gates.

The gates also provided a backdrop for a photo of Derin Akdurak with a dozen friends and fellow members of the Class of 2024, who hail from nine different countries, including Spain, Jordan and Mexico.

“Our time at Brown will always tie us together,” Akdurak said. “Although we were Brown students for four short years, we will be Brown alumni for life.”

Remote learning. Social distancing. Suspended sports seasons. The Class of 2024, whose members arrived at Brown in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, had a one-of-a-kind collegiate experience.

For some Brown seniors, like Emily Faulhaber, the pandemic altered the trajectory of their education. The Florida native had originally wanted to study psychology at Brown, but she declared a new concentration after a public health course inspired her both in and out of the classroom.

“I don’t think I would have leaned as heavily toward public health if I hadn’t been starting in the situation we started in,” said Faulhaber, who like many of her peers will enjoy her first formal graduation ceremony during Brown Commencement, since so many 2020 high school graduations were canceled.

Others said that while periods of isolation were difficult, particularly as first-year students in 2020-21, there was an unexpected benefit: They bridged the physical distance with deeper emotional connections.

“I felt like I was able to focus on making connections with some of the coolest, smartest and most interesting people that I’ve met — lifelong friends I’m sure I’ll still be in touch with in 30 or 40 years,” said Madeleine Adriance, who will graduate with a degree in theatre arts and performance studies.

Mina Sarmas, who is concluding her term as Undergraduate Council of Students president as she graduates, echoed that sentiment, noting that the closeness went far beyond students’ “pods” or online classmates.

“In a weird way, it was very special,” Sarmas said. “My impression is that we’re a lot closer than other classes. We have a group chat for the whole class — there’s maybe 1,700 people in it — that people still use weekly. I don’t know of any other class who has that.”


From celebrations hosted by departments, centers and schools, to 17 festive events that comprised Senior Week organized by the student-run Class Coordinating Board, Brown’s campus abounded with activities ahead of Commencement and Reunion Weekend 2024. This slideshow captures some of those moments. Photos by Nick Dentamaro.


Before she turned her attention to celebrating her graduation, Brown senior Hannah Fernandez was busy leading a team of student volunteers who were collecting and sorting thousands of pounds of clothing, blankets, shoes, school supplies and other items to donate to organizations in and around Providence.

As an intern with Brown’s Office of Sustainability and Resiliency, Fernandez served as a coordinator for the annual Clean Break program, which gathers a wide range of donated items from Brown students moving out of their residence halls in May.

Fernandez, who will graduate this weekend after completing a five-year program to earn both bachelor’s and master of public health degrees, said Clean Break diverts landfill waste while supporting local neighbors and organizations.

“I really enjoyed being able to do more than simple waste diversion by leading a coordinated effort and working with our community partners to make sure that people who need these items are receiving them,” Fernandez said. “It’s important to make sure that we’re doing our best as part of the Providence community and working with our community partners to help solve the issues they’re working on.”

The 13 local organizations that received donated goods during Clean Break this month include the Refugee Dream Center, Crossroads Rhode Island, the Creative Reuse Center, Friends of the Mount Pleasant Library and Street Sights, which produces a magazine and resource guide for Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness.

“We received things like food, clothes, sneakers, rain gear and bedding, which are so important for people in the community,” said Street Sights editor Janice Loungo as she picked up donation bags in Brown’s Jameson-Mead residence hall. “The need is very high, and this program has given us so many things — it’s been wonderful.”