Call it the wind of change.
A cool, insistent breeze rustled the trees on the Quadrangle on the morning of May 14, the University’s 162nd Commencement, as some 3,600 capped and gowned graduates gathered to march into new lives. Robes billowed and tassels swayed as the traditional bagpipes sounded their first notes, but the sun broke through a thin veil of clouds just as the procession began.
“Each graduating class seems to express the values and define the character of the entire student body,” President James Wagner told the rippling sea of graduates, families, and friends. “And you have been a class that seems to have valued most highly the fabric of community: local community, regional community, global community. Sure, you have stretched that fabric from time to time, but you have not wanted it to tear.”
In his keynote Commencement speech, public health advocate and physician Paul Farmer also spoke of community—the global community that can be created by one-to-one connections. He told the story of “Joe,” a young man he met while working in Haiti in the early 1990s and who later, despite family hardship, mailed Farmer a check for $250 for his organization, Partners in Health, to support humanitarian work in Haiti. “Joe’s story is a story about connections,” Farmer said. “As you head off to lives full of promise, remember that the connections you’ve made here at Emory need to be sustained and nourished.”
Farmer received an honorary doctor of science degree during the Commencement ceremony, joining three other honorary degree recipients. (For more on Paul Farmer, please see page 20.) Ray C. Anderson, a widely recognized environmental sustainability advocate and entrepreneur, and founder and chair of Interface Inc., an Atlanta-based floor coverings company, received an honorary doctor of science degree; renowned mental health advocate Beverly Benson Long also received an honorary doctor of science degree; and one of Georgia’s best-known and beloved artists, the late Benny Andrews, was bestowed a posthumous honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, presented to J. Richard Gruber, director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans and longtime friend of Andrews.
Wagner, who came to Emory along with the Class of 2007 four years ago, bid graduates a heartfelt farewell, reminding them that “The best community is one that makes room for the remarkable diversity of humankind.”
Walker Ray, president of the Emory Alumni Board, welcomed graduates into the ranks of alumni. “We are expecting wonderful things from you,” he told them. “We wish you the best, congratulations—and don’t be a stranger.”—P.P.P.