At Emory's 152nd Commencement, CNN's Christiane Amanpour urges graduates to look beyond our borders

By Allison O. Adams

Brittain Award winners forge lives of service and success

Oxford Commencement

Honoring great teachers

Three receive honorary degrees

Resisting the norms


On May 12, a crowd of some fifteen thousand gathered on the Quadrangle for the University's 152nd Commencement. The early-morning air was cool and crisp, but the day began on a somewhat somber note.

"This is a day of endings and beginnings," said University Chaplain Susan Henry-Crowe at the start of the ceremony. She then asked the gathering to remember a significant passing: retired Methodist Bishop William R. Cannon, former dean of the Candler School of Theology and namesake of Cannon Chapel, had died only twenty-four hours earlier at age eighty-one.

"His legacy is extraordinary," Henry-Crowe continued. "He was a scholar, a churchman, and deeply committed to Emory University." Cannon was also a trustee of the University and an honorary member of the Oxford College Board of Counselors. His only pastorate was the Allen Memorial United Methodist Church on the Oxford campus, where he served from 1942 until he joined the Candler faculty in 1943. He was dean of the theology school from 1953 to 1968, when he was elected a Methodist bishop. During his tenure as dean, Candler grew into the largest Methodist seminary in the world. In 1977, he gave the invocation at President Jimmy Carter's inauguration. Four years later, when Cannon Chapel was named in his honor, Carter returned the favor by delivering the principal address at the groundbreaking ceremonies.

For two decades, Bishop Cannon served as a religious ambassador for the Methodist Church. From 1966 to 1986, he spoke for the World Methodist Council in conversation with Roman Catholic officials on Christian unity, and he represented his denomination at ecumenical meetings around the world. On the twentieth anniversary of the second Vatican Council in 1985, Bishop Cannon dined with Pope John Paul II. On his retirement in 1986, the bishop told Emory Magazine, "My greatest joy is the part I've played in evangelism. I think of myself as a simple preacher."


The day also marked the end of the courses of study and the beginning of new endeavors for 3,251 graduates. During Commencement, 1,601 undergraduate degrees were conferred, as well as 1,085 graduate degrees, 483 professional degrees, 32 joint degrees, and 82 certificates. Women claimed 55.5 percent of those degrees. Forty-six states and eighty nations were represented by the graduates, who included 172 students from outside the United States. The youngest bachelor's recipient was nineteen-year-old Sujoy Gulati, who received a biology degree, and the oldest was Lois Ann Wright, who earned a nursing degree at age fifty-five. Forty-six degree recipients were over the age of fifty, including the oldest, Elizabeth Mackay Asbury, who earned a master of theological studies degree at age sixty-nine.

Commencement speaker Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent for the Cable News Network, addressed her remarks to graduates of all ages, disciplines, and degrees. Recalling her travels and work during moments of social and political upheaval in such places as Bosnia, Rwanda, Zaire, and the Middle East, Amanpour sharply criticized American political apathy to international turmoil.

"I am always offended and angered and horrified and frankly dispirited when all I hear is that Americans don't care about foreign news," she said. "Given today's realities, given America's unique position in the world, not caring about what happens out there-not caring about international affairs-is unacceptable. It's undignified, and it's unworthy of this great nation. And my friends, it is very dangerous."

Amanpour urged graduates to understand and accept moral responsibility for global affairs. "You are the next generation of leaders in this country, and you know that you cannot ignore your role in the world. You cannot put your heads in the sand; you cannot pretend that what happens in this world won't affect this country and won't affect each and every one of you and your families and your friends. . . .

"My message to you is very simple. What you do, what you say, how you react to critical situations defines not just the moment, but it defines and shapes you."

Following Amanpour's remarks, Emory President William M. Chace bestowed the University's highest student and faculty honors. The Marion Luther Brittain Award was presented to one graduate already living as "a true servant-leader," according to Dean of Campus Life Frances Lucas-Tauchar. Emily Elizabeth Tripp, who received the Eady Sophomore Award when she graduated from Oxford College in 1995, was again lauded for her involvement on that campus as a tutor, a freshman seminar co-leader, and a member of the Freshman Council, Leadership Oxford, and Volunteer Oxford. On the Emory campus, Tripp was active in Volunteer Emory and the University Chorus, served as a deacon in University Worship, and helped edit the Lullwater Review literary magazine. She also completed a joint bachelor's and master's degree program in English in four years, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

Quoting one of Tripp's nominators, Lucas-Tauchar said, "Emily is not a résumé-builder or glory-seeker. Her contributions are typically quietly performed. At Oxford College, she is still considered by faculty and staff to be a phenomenon-a uniquely gifted person, the likes of whom we will not see again."

Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology Elaine F. Walker received the University Scholar/Teacher Award. "Moved by compassion and curiosity to probe disorders of the human spirit and mind, you have earned international respect for your scholarship," President Chace read from the award citation.

Billy E. Frye, vice president for academic affairs and provost, was presented the Thomas Jefferson Award for significant service to Emory through personal activities, influence, and leadership. A citation written in Shakespearean sonnet form paid tribute to Frye: "Integrity, calm reason, goodness, wit/combine in you to make honor most fit." In June, Frye retired from his position to become only the fourth person to serve as University chancellor.

Amanpour, awarded the degree of doctor of humane letters, was among three individuals to receive honorary degrees from Emory this year. J. Rogers Hollingsworth, who graduated from Emory College in 1954 and received a master of arts in history from Emory in 1955, was granted the doctor of letters degree for his interdisciplinary, international, comparative scholarship in history, economics, medical sociology, and public policy. Hollingsworth is professor of history, sociology, and industrial relations at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Receiving an honorary doctor of divinity degree was L. Bevel Jones III, a retired bishop in the United Methodist Church and now the Loida E. Willett Churchman-in-Residence in the Candler School of Theology. A 1946 Emory College alumnus, Jones also served on the University Board of Trustees from 1971 until becoming a trustee emeritus in 1996.

After awarding the honorary degrees, President Chace brought the central ceremony to a close with the conferring of the degrees-in-course. "Now for the moment most of you have been waiting for," he said. One by one, each of the graduating classes stood to hear these formal words: "I hereby confer your degrees with all the appropriate honors, rights, privileges, and responsibilities pertaining thereto."

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