May 3, 2004

Commencement activities to stretch over five days         

By Eric Rangus

The Commencement activities celebrating Emory’s 159th graduating class artfully blend the University’s past, present and future, offering five days’ worth of ceremony, camaraderie, exuberance and excitement.

The Commencement calendar, which runs from Thursday, May 6, through the main ceremony and individual school ceremonies across campus on May 10, features longtime Emory traditions, such as Sunday’s Baccalaureate Service, and they also highlight new partnerships with the Association of Emory Alumni (AEA).

For the first time, Commencement weekend coincides with Alumni Weekend—the newly christened “Emory Weekend”—which means that the University calendar will be packed with activities for every facet of the Emory community.

Case in point, the 2004 Commencement schedule kicks off with a golf scramble for graduating students and their families, alumni, faculty and staff at the Stone Mountain Golf Course beginning at 8:30 a.m.

This connection between Commencement and Emory Weekend will provide one of the celebration’s highlights—a block party on McDonough Field featuring music from the Indigo Girls, Saturday, May 8, from noon–5 p.m. Attendance is free (lunch is $10, and tickets can be purchased on the AEA website: Students with ID and children 12 and under eat for free.

Emory’s Class of 1954, holding its reunion during Emory Weekend, also will march into the ceremony together, in cap and gown and be recognized. To further the ties between AEA and this newest crop of graduates a new deputy marshal for alumni has been instituted.

Celebrations and receptions honoring the graduates are scheduled all over campus. The Goizueta Business School has five on its own, as do many of the professional schools. Others incorporate graduates from across schools. One, Modupe Dayo, now in its 11th year, celebrates the accomplishments of African American students.

“While the ceremony celebrates the achievements of Emory’s African American seniors, it is something for the entire Emory community to enjoy,” said Donovan Francis, a junior business major from New Orleans and one of the event’s planners. Translated from Yoruba, “Modupe Dayo” means literally, “we are thankful” (Modupe) and “joy arrives” (Dayo).

Mary Robinson, executive director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative and the former president of Ireland, will deliver the main Commencement ceremony’s keynote address. A lifelong advocate for universal respect of fundamental rights and freedoms, Robinson also served as United Nations high commissioner for human rights from 1997 to 2002.

Other honorary degree recipients include medical historian Caroline Walker Bynum, former head of the United States Olympic Committee Leroy Walker and trustee emeritus James Bryan Williams (’55C). Each will give a brief address upon receiving his or her degree.

Robinson’s presence has not been uniformly hailed by the student body. A petition protesting her selection was circulated questioning Robinson’s presence and role at two international conferences in 2001 that were seen in some circles as anti-Semitic.

However, other Emory students—who circulated their own petition of support for Robinson—administrators and even former President Jimmy Carter have leapt to her defense.

“During her tenure [as U.N. high commissioner for human rights], Secretary-General Kofi Annan became more forthright in statements and actions on behalf of victims, he confronted states guilty of abusive practices, and he ensured that human rights issues would be a consistent topic of conversation,” Carter said in a statement released last month. He and Robinson are both advisers to the Emory’s World Law Institute. “Mrs. Robinson can be credited with these and many other important advances within the U.N. system.”

The full Commencement schedule can be found at