Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Event Details

The who, what, where & when is here.


Video clips of the four Honorary Degree recipients are now linked from the blurbs.

Dean Greg Kannerstein '63 offers his view of the event, the class of '07 and sends greetings to alums. (video)

Many HC alums have reached out with their own stories of Commencements past. Here's a good one from Eric "Rick" Sterling '73:

In 1973, then President John Coleman sent around an announcement that contrary to the practice in 1971 and 1972, graduates would have to wear caps and gowns. I had dropped out at the end of the spring semester in 1969 to live and work in Phila. in the anti-war movement, and was around Haverford at the commencement that year.

I had entered with the class of 1971, re-entered Haverford in the spring of 1971, and was in the audience at their commencement, and at the 1972 commencement as well. I remembered that the gowns worn in 1969 came out of boxes crumpled, wrinkled and tacky. The graduates in 1971 and 1972 wore a wide variety of clothing -- from suits and blazers to dashikis (and even blue jeans).I went to see Mr. Coleman to object to his edict. I thought that the gowns looked hideous. "Rick," he said, "I have had more complaints about the lack of caps and gowns than any other matter during my tenure as president. Parents say that they've paid $16,000 for their sons' Haverford education and they expect to see them in a cap and gown. This is not negotiable."

Okay, I told him. Then he said to me, your class has no officers (we were "officially" anarchist), and you have an interest in commencement. The senior class needs to pick the commencement speaker. Would you take on the task of getting one selected? I agreed, and set up the process to get nominations and hold an election. As a result of the preferential balloting, we selected Astronomy professor Louis Green. I reported the selection and thought that was the end of that.

Some weeks later, Professor Ashmead, the Marshal of the Faculty (I didn't even know the office existed) called me to say that the class needed someone to introduce Professor Green at the commencement, and since I did the work would I be that person? I said that I would ask what others in the class thought, and a number said sure, you can do it, but someone suggested John Davison who nominated Green. I called John and he said that he, too, would like the honor. I think I suggested that we flip a coin. Even though we were on the phone, John agreed, and I won the coin toss.

Thus I wrote and delivered a short speech (most of it anti-war as a long preface) to introduce Prof. Green at the 1973 commencement. Mostly because I had been a leading campus anti-war person (three arrests in Quaker non-violent war protests including one during Holy Week 1972 in Harrisburg that drew a five day sentence), President Coleman very graciously introduced me as "sometimes the conscience of the college."

That I spoke at the commencement was truly amazing. Not only had I dropped out in 1969, I had been a fairly undistinguished student. I was not Phi Beta Kappa nor did I receive any academic honors. Needless to say, my parents, family and I were enormously proud!So that's a report on the dramatic behind-the-scenes details for the selection of a commencement speaker 34 years ago.

Here's a photo of Eric as ink-stained wretch ("...in the Haverford-Bryn Mawr News office in Leeds Basement in 1972 or 1973 taken by Cathy Davidson (BMC '72 or '73), an Editor in Chief of the paper and a career journalist."):

...and more recently:

Methinks we need to develop some board spaces for cool exchanges like this...something for the summer interns!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Commencement Is A Beginning

12:05 p.m.

The ceremony over, the party moves to Founders -- and your blogger moves to the edit bay.

The Program: "You have what it takes to change the world."

10:18 a.m.
A moment of silence followed by Doug Davis (Prof. of Psychology Emeritus) with a reading from Garrison Keillor: "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted."

10:25 a.m.
President Tritton greets the class and asks them to send him an email in ten years, telling him what they learned in college. As for lessons he learned: Don't be content to possess knowledge; contribute.

10:30 a.m.
Louise Tritton begins the conferring of Honorary Degrees (click on names to see video clips):

Michael Dombeck is a renowned environmentalist and conservationist. Dr. Dombeck is the recipient of the prestigious Audubon Medal and the Lady Bird Johnson Conservation Award. He receives Doctor of Sciences. "Do not accept the status quo...be out there...play in the policymaking arena. That's what democracy is all about."

Prof. Rajeswari Mohan introduces Barbara Ehrenreich, a prominent writer, political activist, and commentator on American culture. She majored in physics at Reed College (1963) and received a PhD in cell biology from Rockefeller University (1968), but decided that writing and contemporary criticism was her true calling. She has published 13 books, including Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting by in America, and the recent Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. She receives Doctor of Letters and offers a salute to all the parents in attendance, as well as "all the workers who make the campus work -- clerical workers, maintenance workers...(applause)...Maybe with this degree in hand I'll finally be able to get a decent job." And, "My instruction to the Class of '07 is, go out there and raise hell."

Jack Coleman, HC president from 1967-77, introduces Freeman Hrabowski president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Dr. Hrabowski was only 19 when he graduated from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics, and then received his M.A. (mathematics) and Ph.D. (higher education administration/statistics) from the University of Illinois. His research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance. He receives Doctor of Laws. "You don't know a lot today. You simply know how to learn," he begins. "Think about the possibilities. You have what it takes to change the world. Watch your thoughts become words, your words become actions, actions become habits -- and watch habits become character. What will you do when no one is watching?"

Wes Williams, former member of the HC Board of Managers, introduces Ghebre Selassie Mehreteab , class of '72 and president of the NHP Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that has taken on the difficult mission of providing quality housing at rents that poor and middle-class families can afford. Mehreteab was born and raised in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea, and came to the US to pursue his education. Gabe, as he is known to all, graduated from Haverford College in 1972 with a double major in political science and economics. He receives Doctor of Humane Laws and, dedicating his degree to his father, says "Life is anything but what you expect...I was nearly killed in a terrorist attack...Jihadists from Sudan ambushed my car. I came away from this horrific experince grateful and amazed to be alive. It reinstalled a core ideal that HC ingrained in me: peace is the transcendant human value." Then, "It is not what you know that counts,but rather how you use what you know. My three parting words: embrace the challenge."

11:17 a.m.

Prof. Aryeh Kosman begins the roll call. "Aleem Haji Ahmed...Amy Elizabeth Alspaugh...Priya Katherine Amar...Tania Apicella...Timothy Albury Arling..." Kosman reflects on his role. (video)

12:00 p.m.
...Laura K. Zoltan...Kathryn Zukaitis.(video)

No Turning Back

The Procession from Ryan to Lloyd Green:

Let The Rumpus Begin

5:45 a.m.
Dawn, Roberts Hall:

6:00 a.m.
Tom Tritton arrives for the annual "Inside or Out?" confab outside Sharpless that includes Prof. Aryeh Kosman (Philosophy) who'll be Faculty Marshal. (video)

6:15 a.m.
It's going to be outside.

6:56 a.m.
Chair Swarm:

Video: Housekeeping's Fern Hall arrives with the chairs; how wonderful to run into Carmen Calvarese from Facilities. Carmen has been putting the creases into HC events at least as far back as 1982.

Video: Aryeh Kosman on his role as Faculty Marshal.

9:15 a.m.
Last minute details:

Violet Brown from External Relations gets the photographers squared away.

To prevent "Why did I get Bob Hooferdoofer's diploma???"-style mixups, Registrar Lee Watkins confers with Janine Beaman of the Communications office.

Up on stage. "Podium's gotta go six inches to the left." Astonishing attention to detail.

9:35 a.m.
Seniors are heading to Ryan, where they'll assemble for the Procession:

9:45 a.m.

Cue the theme from "Masterpiece Theater." We are rolling.

Preps III: Saturday

Catering Services' Leon Joyner cleans up after a big brunch. Meanwhile, in the kitchens...


Dining Services' Bruce Levine takes us on a tour. (video)