May 30, 2000
Volume 52, No. 34
Ideal conditions add to Commencement event
By Eric Rangus
File the rain plan for Emory's 2000 Commencement under "U" for "unnecessary."
Unequivocally. Undoubtedly. Umbrellaless. With nary a cloud in the sky and pleasant breeze blowing, the weather for the University's 155th Commencement was simply unbeatable.
The Monday morning sun warmed the crowd and provided perfect lighting conditions for the dozens of parent-held video cameras (and a handful among the graduates) in the crowd. The temperature didn't hit 80 until well into the afternoon, and humidity was a complete nonfactor, making the atmosphere even more idyllic.
As could be expected, the 3,210 graduates were in a chipper mood, applauding with their tongues firmly implanted in their cheeks when speaker Sen. George Mitchell said he wanted to set a record for shortest Commencement speech.
"Indeed, that was one of the shortest and one of the very best," remarked President Bill Chace.
Yet many of the robed attendees knew when to honor a special visitor, too, rising to their feet to pay tribute to 102-year-old Dr. Leila Daughtry Denmark, who received an honorary degree from the University that denied her admission in the 1920s because she was a woman (a point President Chace brought up during his introduction).
The petite Denmark, whose life has spanned three centuries, moved as well as someone halfway through just one. She was one of six honorary degree recipients, a group that also included: a public health advocate (Linda Aiken), a retired Coca-Cola executive (Claus Halle), a renowned dancer and choreographer (Rex Nettleford), an economist (Anna Schwartz) and Mitchell.
Business school students cheered, fists raised in triumph, as one of their own, MBA student Kembrel Jones, was presented with the Marion Luther Brittain Service Award, the University's highest student honor.
President Chace asked the graduates to stand so that he could confer their degrees, saying the ritual, "I hereby confer on you your respective degrees with all appropriate honors, rights, privileges and responsibilities." He repeated the phrase for each of Emory's schools.
Ensuring the audience's attention span didn't waver, the activities, like Mitchell's speech, moved quickly. Professors Walt Reed (English) and Jacqueline Jordan Irvine (educational studies) earned faculty awards--the University Scholar/Teacher Award and the Thomas Jefferson Award, respectively. Chace's address also was just as concise and pointed as Mitchell's.
"These graduates shall never again be as they were," he said. The Class of 2000 entered Emory with an "excited unreadiness" as freshmen, he continued. Now, after earning their degrees, they leave the same way.
"You are always welcome here, and you will always have a home here," Rebecca Hodges McQueen '76C, '79MPH president of the Association of Emory Alumni, told the organization's 3,000-plus new members. Following Susan Henry-Crowe's benediction, the Atlanta Pipe Band fired up its bagpipes again and the graduates advanced to their individual diploma ceremonies.
The first day of the rest of their lives had begun.