Emory Report
May 7, 2007
Volume 59, Number 30

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May 7, 2007
Emory prepares for Commencement 2007

by carol clark

Be sure to arrive early on Monday, May 14, for Emory’s 162nd Commencement, which begins promptly at 8 a.m. on the Quadrangle.

“I have my watch tuned to astronomical time standards,” said Ray DuVarney, chair of the physics department, who starts the ceremony. As chief marshal of Commencement, DuVarney manages the opening procession, which features the Atlanta Pipe Band, members of the platform party, Emory faculty and students from the various colleges marching in from every entrance to the Quad.

“One minute before we start marching, the drums will start drumming, just to give everybody a warning that we’re about to move,” he said. “At exactly 8 a.m., the bagpipes get going and we start.”

The keynote will be delivered by Paul Farmer, founding director of Partners in Health and a pioneer in community-based treatment strategies for AIDS and tuberculosis in the developing world. Farmer will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree, along with Beverly Benson Long, an internationally recognized advocate for behavior health issues, and Ray Anderson, a leader in environmental sustainability and the founder and chairman of Interface Inc. The late Benny Andrews, one of Georgia’s most beloved artists, will be awarded a posthumous Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree.

Oxford College will stage its Commencement two days earlier, on Saturday, May 12, beginning at 10 a.m. on the College Green. The keynote speaker will be J. Neal Purcell ‘61Ox–‘63B, and a member of the Emory Board of Trustees.

The elaborate Emory Commencement ceremony is the culmination of months of work and scores of volunteers, coordinated by the team of Michael Kloss, director of the Office of University Convocations and Special Events.

Even after more than a decade of serving as chief marshal, DuVarney said he still gets stage fright. “It’s amazing trying to get 6,000 people in place. I almost panic about three minutes before we kick off and I see the students chit-chatting and not paying that much attention. They’ll just be milling around. I think, ‘How in the world are they going to get in alphabetical order?’ But somehow they do.”

The faculty are even more distressing, he said. “They come in and they’re not sure where to go, bless their hearts. They wouldn’t be faculty if they were in order. They tend to be thinking of something else.”

His Commencement motto: “Never let them see you sweat.”

One year, one of the procession lines struck out in the wrong direction, putting it on a collision course with the platform party, led by DuVarney. “I was waving at them and mouthing, ‘Go back! Go back!’” Another crisis was averted and the audience remained blissfully unaware.

The ceremony is solemn, but never dull.

“It’s a wonderful pageant,” DuVarney said. “It’s theater. There’s a big stage and lots of people and there’s sound and there’s costumes. I think the students love it.”

For more details about both Commencement ceremonies, including related events, speakers, dates, locations and inclement weather plans, visit the Web site: www.emory.edu/COMMENCEMENT.