Distributed May 10, 2002
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Overview of the 234th Commencement

Brown University to hold 234th Commencement Monday, May 27, 2002

Chief Marshal William Rogers ’52 will lead more than 6,000 people down College Hill on Monday, May 27, 2002, in one of the nation’s largest and most colorful academic pageants. The procession and academic exercises cap a four-day Commencement/Reunion Weekend on the Brown campus.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More than 6,000 graduates, alumni, faculty, parent educators and University guests will march down College Hill on Monday morning, May 27, 2002. Their mile-long procession, accompanied by an entourage of bagpipers, highland drummers, television cameras and marching bands, will mark the beginning of Brown University’s 234th Commencement exercises, capping a four-day Commencement-Reunion Weekend.

Editors: A calendar of the weekend’s main events is included at the end of this release. Additional Commencement news releases (honorary degree recipients, Commencement forums, concerts and events, etc.) will be distributed during the next two weeks. Please contact the News Service (401-863-2476) or consult the News Service Web site – www.brown.edu/news – for updates.

The ceremonial Van Wickle Gates, which opened inward to admit the Class of 2002 four years ago, will swing outward for the graduates’ symbolic march into the world beyond Brown. Chief marshal for Monday morning’s procession, one of the largest and most colorful academic pageants in the nation, will be William Rogers, Class of 1952. The procession steps off at 8:30 a.m., led by candidates for medical degrees, then graduate degrees, then bachelor’s degrees.

Brown’s Commencement exercises include three separate convocations prior to the all-University exercises on The College Green:

  • Medical students will gather at 8:45 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church for their degree ceremonies and administration of the Physician’s Oath by Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Donald J. Marsh, M.D.
  • Graduate students will assemble for open-air ceremonies at 9:15 a.m. on Lincoln Field (behind Sayles Hall), where Dean of the Graduate School and Research Peder Estrup will preside. (In case of rain, the Graduate School’s convocation will be held in the Pizzitola Sports Center.)
  • Undergraduates will march to the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, site of all Brown Commencements since 1775, for the symbolic awarding of the baccalaureate degree, beginning at 10 a.m. President Ruth J. Simmons will preside.

By approximately 11:15, more than 15,000 people will have found their way to The College Green for the University’s Commencement exercises and the ritual conferral of degrees by the president and chancellor. In all, President Simmons, presiding at her first Brown Commencement, will deliver formal Latin salutations to approximately 1,500 baccalaureate candidates, 520 candidates for advanced degrees and eight candidates for honorary degrees. Flags from 57 nations, representing the homelands of the Class of 2002, will be flown during the University ceremony.

Because the baccalaureate graduating class fills the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church, parents and friends of the graduates traditionally gather on The College Green to listen to a broadcast of the undergraduate ceremony and view the proceedings on a large outdoor video screen, which will include closed captioning. The University provides 12,000 folding chairs for graduates and their guests, but Commencement is usually a standing-room-only event. The screen will be available for parents and guests in the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center in case of rain on Monday.


By long tradition, Brown does not invite a single main speaker to deliver a Commencement address, but asks a number of individuals, including students, to contribute remarks at the various Commencement convocations. This year’s speakers will include:
  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will deliver the Baccalaureate address in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26;
  • Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, will deliver an address titled “It’s Time To Leave No Child Behind” at the Brown Medical School Commencement Convocation, Monday, May 27, at 8:45 a.m., in the First Unitarian Church;
  • Also at the Medical School Convocation, James McIlwain, M.D., professor of neuroscience, will speak on “Words that Bind,” and Robert Wolf, a member of the M.D. graduating class will deliver an address to his classmates titled “Where We Are Now.”
  • Maithili Parekh of Bombay, India, and Edward Smith of Washington, D.C., will deliver senior orations Monday, May 27, at 10:15 a.m. in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America.

Departmental ceremonies

Receiving a bachelor’s degree at Brown is a three-step process. First, during ceremonies at the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, President Simmons will present candidates for the bachelor’s degree to members of the Corporation, who will authorize her to confer the degrees. Second, during ceremonies on The College Green, Simmons will confer all bachelors degrees symbolically by presenting a diploma to one representative of each degree (A.B., Sc.B, A.B./Sc.B.). Third, graduates will receive their individual diplomas during departmental ceremonies held at various locations on and off campus at the conclusion of the University ceremony, about 12:30 p.m. A listing of sites for these ceremonies is included in the Commencement program, distributed on campus Commencement morning.


Individuals with disabilities who require accommodations for any event during Commencement Weekend should contact the Office of University Events as soon as possible, but no less than 48 hours in advance. Call the Office of University events at (401) 863-2474 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Closed captioning will be available on video simulcasts of the weekend’s major ceremonies.

Rain Plan

If Monday is damp or drizzly, outdoor activities will proceed as scheduled. If a full-scale downpour begins, yellow pennants will be flown around campus, indicating that the rain plan is in effect. In that event, Commencement ceremonies scheduled for The College Green will take place at the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, and the departmental ceremonies will move to rain plan sites listed in the Commencement program. Guests of undergraduates may view a large-screen video simulcast of the ceremonies at the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center.


More than 4,000 Brown alumni/ae, friends and family will return to the campus for several days of reunion celebration which surround Commencement. Further information on reunion activities is available from the Reunion hotline: (401) 863-9292.

The Commencement/Reunion Schedule

Information about events is available from the Commencement hotline: (401) 863-7000.
For recorded travel directions to the Brown University campus, dial (401) 863-1600.

Friday, May 24

“Bring a Book to Brown” is a public service project in which returning alumni, parents and guests of the University bring new children’s books, appropriate for grades 3 through 6, to campus. Books will be collected at Reunion registration centers and throughout the weekend at Maddock Alumni Center and will be distributed to children in Providence.

The Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance will celebrate the Sock and Buskin centennial with a presentation of Donald Margulies’ Sight Unseen at 7 p.m. in Leeds Theatre, starring alumni Andrew Borba ’87, Kate Hampton ’91, Marin Hinkle ’88 and Peter Jacobson ’87. Tickets are available at the Box Office.

Campus Dance, from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. on The College Green, will feature music by the Duke Belaire Orchestra. Student bands will perform on Lincoln Field, with jazz near Carrie Tower.

Senior Sing, a traditional feature at the Campus Dance, takes place at midnight on the steps of Sayles Hall.

Saturday, May 25

Commencement Forums, presentations on a variety of topics by internationally respected speakers, take place all day, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Eighteen forums are scheduled this year, all open without charge to campus guests and the general public on a space-available basis. For more information: (401) 863-2474.

Alumni field day will be held from noon until 4 p.m. in the Wendell R. Erickson Athletic Complex (Aldrich-Dexter Field), featuring music, games and amusements. (Rain site: Olney-Margolies Athletic Center.)

The 21th Annual Dr. Carl and Dorothy O. Jagolinzer Memorial Commencement Concert, featuring performances by graduating seniors, begins at 4 p.m. in Grant Recital Hall.

The Class of 2002 College Honors Convocation, honoring undergraduates who have received departmental academic awards, begins at 4:30 p.m. in Lincoln Field. President Simmons, Dean of the College Paul Armstrong, and James W. Head III, professor of geological sciences, will address the honors recipients. (Rain site: Pizzitola Sports Center)

The Sock and Buskin centennial presentation of Donald Margulies’ Sight Unseen begins at 7 p.m. (see Friday listing).

A Dance Concert featuring graduating seniors will be presented at 7 p.m. in Stuart Theatre.

An Alumni and Undergraduate Cabaret will begin at 10 p.m. in Ashamu Studio.

The Alumni Relations Commencement Concert, featuring guest artist Al Jarreau and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, will take place from 9 p.m. to midnight on The College Green.

Sunday, May 26

President Simmons will meet with students, parents and alumni at 10 a.m. in Lincoln Field to talk about the University and respond to questions during an Hour With the President.

University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson will officiate at the All Class Memorial Service to celebrate the lives of deceased classmates, 11:15 a.m. in Sayles Hall.

The 2002 Baccalaureate Service begins at about 1:30 p.m. in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. The service is preceded by an academic procession at 12:45 p.m. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will deliver the Baccalaureate address; family and friends may watch a video simulcast on The College Green.

Former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata will give a Stephen A. Ogden Jr. Memorial Lecture on International Affairs – titled “From Human Security to State Security” – at 4 p.m. in Starr Auditorium of MacMillan Hall.

Brown’s undergraduate understudies will give an encore performance of Donald Margulies’ Sight Unseen at 4 p.m. in Leeds Theatre (donation requested).

From dusk until midnight, the Brown Alumni Association will sponsor “WaterFire,” the dramatic multimedia fire installation by Barnaby Evans ’75 in downtown Providence.

The Brown University Chorus, with alumni and orchestra, will perform Mozart’s Requiem at Grace Episcopal Church, Westminster and Mathewson Streets in downtown Providence, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased through the Music Department.

Monday, May 27

The Medical School Convocation begins at 8:45 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church, Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Donald J. Marsh, M.D., presiding.

The Graduate School Convocation begins at 9:15 a.m. on Lincoln Field (rain site: Pizzitola Sports Center), Dean of the Graduate School and Research Peder Estrup presiding.

The Undergraduate Convocation begins at 10 a.m. in Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, President Ruth J. Simmons presiding.

The University ceremony begins at approximately 11:15 on The College Green, President Simmons presiding.

Undergraduates receive their diplomas at departmental ceremonies at various locations, beginning at approximately 12:30.