May 18, 1999
Volume 51, No. 31
154th Commencement a bright and colorful day for all
Around the time President Bill Chace was awarding an honorary degree to Korean sociologist, political leader and Emory alumnus Wan-Sang Han, a single balloon drifted skyward in the bright sunshine above the Quadrangle. Whoever released it granted a helium-filled symbol for the Class of 1999, who after receiving their degrees at the University's 154th Commencement will themselves attempt to rise to even greater heights.
Once again, higher powers cooperated and granted perfect weather for the ceremony: cobalt blue skies and the sun angling over Bowden Hall and onto the 3,192 graduates bedecked in black robes and sporting a velvet prism of school colors. Even the buzzing motors of two propellor aircraft pulling airborne billboards overhead couldn't disrupt the atmosphere.
The morning started at 8:30 a.m. as Chief Marshal Ray DuVarney led the main procession of faculty, administrators, trustees and guests to the stage in front of Pitts Library to the strains of Emory and Old St. Andrews March, played on bagpipes by the kilt-clad Atlanta Pipe Band. Written by alumnus Henry Frantz, the selection was especially appropriate considering one of the day's honorary degree recepients was Atlanta businessman and philanthropist Charles Yates.
Yates, a 1935 graduate of Georgia Tech, has for 20 years led the Bobby Jones Scholarship program at Emory. "Drawing on lifelong friendships forged in fairways and on greens, you have helped Emory and the University of Saint Andrews establish more enduring and satisfying links," Chace read from Yates' degree. A lifelong and passionate golfer, Yates was a contemporary of Bobby Jones and won the British Amateur in 1938, eight years after Jones did.
Also receiving honorary degrees were Norman Borlaug and Leontine Kelly. Borlaug was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for promoting an agricultural "green revolution" in India and Pakistan. "The form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths," The Atlantic Monthly wrote in 1997.
Kelly was the first African-American woman to be elected to episcopacy of the United Methodist Church. A former public schoolteacher, she began her second career in the ministry in the late 1960s and was ordained a deacon 1972 by the late Emory trustee emeritus William Cannon.
Commencement speaker and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich also received an honorary degree. Reich entertained the Class of '99 with bits of wisdom gleaned from his early years and his time in the Clinton administration. "Four years in the president's cabinet wore me down," Reich quipped, referring to his diminuitive stature.
"Don't overplan; don't subject your future to cost-benefit analysis," cautioned Reich, who teaches economics at Brandeis University. "There are too many variables, and things won't work out like you expect them to."
Before officially conferring degrees on the graduates, Chace offered a few words of encouragement and advice. Traditionally the Emory president addresses the graduating class at Commencement, he said, and in days long past the address could run as long as two hours or more. "My remarks will be more brief," he assured the crowd slowly cooking under a steadily rising May sun.
"To be human is to teach; it is one of the oldest human skills," Chace said. "Your parents, your professors have all been teachers. The world will now carry on for you the great adventure of teaching in which Emory is glad to have played its part."