Since it was being held for the first time, asking
for a hassle-free inaugural Class Day was simply too much. Good
thing the participants were able to laugh off the problem.
With just one handheld microphone between them, special guests Danny
Glover and Felix Justice improvised. With the two actors seated
on stools, Justice got the handheld, while Glover used a microphone
sitting on the podium to his right. It kept falling over.
“This is the first time we’ve attempted this,”
joked Justice, a friend of Glover’s for 30 years and moderator
of their Class Day conversation. “Please indulge us our technical
Justice gave Glover the handheld and moved behind the podium to
complete their discussion. It was an especially
light moment in a decidedly joyous event that kicked off the activities
of Emory’s 158th Commencement, Thursday, May 8, in the P.E.
More than 500 members of the Class of 2003 attended and not only
heard advice from Glover and Justice, but some also received awards.
“I want to congratulate the Class of 2003 as you begin to
make your real journey in life,” said Glover, who has appeared
in more than 60 television and feature films. “You now will
leave behind these hallowed halls, find your work, your life’s
passion and grow in a different way.”
During a 25-minute conversation with Justice, with whom Glover has
appeared on stage in An Evening with Langston and Marvin, the Emmy-nominated
actor discussed his family history, his own background in community
service and activism, and how his work as an actor has shaped his
Although known primarily as a film actor, Glover began his career
on the stage; it is his first love, and his experiences in the theater
were a main theme of his talk.
“The stage provided a platform to work and unveil a character,”
Glover said. “In the theater, you can take a whole journey
in 90 minutes. It takes an enormous amount of energy. Theater taught
me that there is a whole continuity between art and language.”
While a native of California, Glover has strong ties to Georgia.
His mother was born in Lewisville, and was the first member of her
family to graduate from college. After graduating, she moved to
San Francisco, where Glover was born. He said he visited Georgia
frequently as a boy to work on his grandfather’s farm.
“My mom never let me forget my legacy,” he said.
After graduating from San Francisco State, Glover did not take acting
seriously until he was 30. Up until that point he had been working
in the community service sector in San Francisco. While working
in that city’s Mission district, an area populated by many
poor Hispanics, Glover said he learned a great deal, and that experience
prepared him for the rest of his life.
“Everything you do prepares you for the next moment—the
next journey,” he said. “So much has happened in the
last 21 years that it feels like a whisper.”
Glover ended his talk with call for the graduating seniors to take
a stand for what they believe in. “We often are unaware of
the changes that happen before our eyes,” he said. “You
must understand these changes and you must speak out of necessity,
even if you make people uncomfortable. Our responsibility is to
not sleep through great changes. Don’t sleep through these
Class Day featured more than just Glover’s appearance. Three
graduating seniors, Purvi Patel, Rachel Shaw and Victor Delgadillo,
received the first Boisfeuillet Jones Medals to commemorate good
citizenship, outstanding leadership and devotion to the Emory community.
Students presented class gifts to the University and superlatives
to each other (the whimsical awards included Most Likely To Have
an Emory Building Named After Them). And everyone in attendance
acknowledged the Crystal Apple Award winners, many of whom were
The senior class reception in the Emory Conference Center followed
the event, and a ceremonial candlelight walk across the Houston
Mill Road pedestrian bridge to the Miller-Ward Alumni house for
desserts and entertainment wrapped up the evening.