April 26, 2010

Commencement is an all-Emory effort

Volunteers help make Commencement a success, whether setting up as "chair wranglers" or serving as ambassadors.

When an estimated 15,000 students and guests descend on campus for Emory’s 165th Commencement on Monday, May 10, they may not notice the volunteers buzzing about in the shadows to ensure every chair is properly placed, every water bottle winds up in the recycling bin and every parent gets an unobstructed view of their son or daughter taking the stage.

“There’s a lot of energy in the air,” says Betsy Tanner, a biology department academic administrator who has helped design the intricate seating layout for the last dozen Commencements. Tanner, from her official perch on the Carlos Museum steps, watched her daughter graduate from Emory College in 2000. “That was a very smooth year without a hitch,” she proudly recalls.

Emory’s ceremony for about 3,600 graduates begins at 8 a.m. on the Quad, with the keynote address to be delivered by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. Oxford College will stage its Commencement beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, on the College Green. The speaker will be Dennis Liotta, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Chemistry at Emory. For a complete schedule, visit

Peak traffic times will be from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 10 and faculty and staff are advised to check for changes to shuttle routes and employee parking.

The Office of University Events is busy recruiting about 140 volunteers from the University and Emory Healthcare to set up and take down chairs, greet, seat and assist guests and serve as enthusiastic University ambassadors.

“Volunteers bring success to the event,” says Tricia Stultz, director of convocations for the Office of University Events. “Commencement is an all-Emory effort and celebration.”

Custodial and facilities staff, in particular, must quickly react to accommodate the swell in numbers. Instrumental in this effort is Bob Hascall, vice president for Campus Services, who will retire this summer after a 13-year tenure at Emory. Jack Scheu, Emory’s senior carpenter, has been known to assist with setup and then turn around and don a sports coat as an usher. Learn more about Scheu’s involvement in previous Commencements in this Emory Profile.

Robin Mitchell, a project coordinator in Campus Services, will be on hand at Commencement this year (her 10th year volunteering), corralling camera-happy parents, coordinating with project managers in clearing pedestrian paths and crossing her fingers for sunshine.

“It’s a wonderful time to collaborate with peers you don’t see every day,” she says. “Commencement is a good reminder of why the University is here. We’re here to support our graduates.”

Volunteer this year
Faculty and staff interested in volunteering at Commencement have a variety of ways to get involved.

“Chair wranglers” are responsible for individually setting up and/or breaking down all 15,000 chairs on the Quad. Setup begins on Wednesday, May 5 at 8 a.m. and volunteers will receive a barbeque lunch. Breakdown occurs immediately following the ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served and these volunteers get the added benefit of taking home Commencement flowers while they last.

University ushers and ambassadors are needed for Commencement day during the all-schools and College ceremonies. Ushers greet and assist special needs guests, ensure proper safety and create a memorable experience for attendees. Ambassadors welcome guests and offer directions to the ceremonies by way of campus shuttle or on foot. Both sets of volunteers will begin the day with breakfast at 5:30 a.m. before making their way to their stations.

To sign up, contact Tricia Stultz.

File Options

  • Print Icon Print