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Commencement 2017: Gloomy Weather, Festive Spirits

May 22, 2017

Leading the Graduate School’s procession from HGS to Old Campus was bagpipe player Duncan Keller (Geology & Geophysics), wearing his clan Sutherland tartan. After him, in traditional academic regalia, came Dean Lynn Cooley, Associate Deans Richard Sleight and Allegra diBonaventura, Assistant Deans Jasmina Besirevic Regan and Robert Harper-Mangels,  student banner bearers Matthew Tanico (Renaissance Studies) and Wendy Xiao (MD/PhD, Neuroscience), and student marshals. Last came the degree candidates, wearing academic robes and mortarboards or velvet caps, on their way to the 316th Yale University Commencement.

When they streamed onto Old Campus, they found it packed with about 10,000 students and family members. Welcomes and benedictions were offered. In the course of the ceremony, 3,618 degrees were granted to the students of Yale College and the University’s various professional schools, but only 234 of those degrees were given in Latin. In keeping with an old Yale tradition, at the climax of the earned degree program, Dean Lynn Cooley presented the PhD candidates to President Peter Salovey (PhD 1986, Psychology) in Latin, and he responded with the Latin formula conferring their doctorates. Wild cheering followed.

After the earned degrees, honorary doctorates were granted to Former Secretary of State and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who graduated from Yale College in 1966; U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a leader in the civil rights movement; Stevie Wonder, winner of 25 Grammy Awards; music director Marin Alsop; Jessie Little Doe Baird, co-founder of the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project; neurobiologist Cornelia Bargmann; electrical engineer Irwin Jacobs; and Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Students and their guests then went to Woolsey Hall for the formal presentation of diplomas. Once everyone was in place, the faculty and Graduate School leadership marched in to the music of Woolsey’s grand pipe organ. Welcoming remarks were made, and each graduate was called up by name to receive a diploma, a handshake from the Dean, and congratulations (and hugs) from advisers.

A festive picnic at HGS capped the day, and then Yale’s newest alumni left campus to start the next chapter of their lives.