Some 20,000 people gathered on June 9 for the University of Chicago’s 511th Convocation, celebrating past accomplishments, aspirations for the future and the University’s enduring values.
Friends and family joined faculty members, students and staff for the central graduation ceremony on the Main Quadrangle. Under brilliant blue skies, the traditional bagpipe procession led degree candidates through the crowd.
President Robert J. Zimmer officially conferred degrees on all graduates, saying the rite “affords us all a moment to reflect upon the accomplishments of our past, and the opportunities of our future, individually, collectively, and as an institution.”
Throughout the weekend, students also took part in separate diploma and hooding ceremonies for each school and division of the University. In the divisions of the Biological Sciences and Social Sciences and the Divinity School, four recipients of the Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring were honored.
In the Convocation address, Stephen Raudenbush, the Lewis-Sebring Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology, considered how the University’s tradition of intellectual inquiry informs its engagement with wider communities in Chicago and beyond.
“No other University has made a deeper commitment to the practical work of assisting local public schools,” Raudenbush said, noting that such work “may seem at odds with the University’s historical aims.” But Raudenbush argued that the traditions of scientific inquiry can help solve some of the most pressing social inequalities in education. He described such work as a “grand intellectual project” that will advance both science and society.
“You have become expert skeptics, yet each of you will be asked to commit yourself to effective action,” Raudenbush said, addressing the graduating students.
The Convocation ceremony included the awarding of the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service to historian and activist Timuel Black, AM’54, and the Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Creative and Performing Arts to avant-garde theater director Anne Bogart.
Scholars who have made extraordinary contributions to their fields also received honorary degrees during the Convocation: astronomer Geoffrey W. Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley; historian Jean Meyer Barth of Centro de Investigación y Docencia Economicas in Mexico City; and biologist R. Bruce Nicklas of Duke University.
Sitting in the audience were the parents of Haosheng Cui, who had come from Beijing to see him earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry. “It is a great day,” said his father Huawen Cui, who teaches mathematics at Peking University. Observing how happy the gathered crowd seemed, he said, “Even people’s eyes are bright.”
On Friday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave the keynote speech at the hooding ceremony for the Division of the Biological Sciences. Emanuel told the future doctors in the room about his own brush with death, and said that he owed his life to doctors.
"With your medical education you have developed a power to treat, to heal, to listen, and to discover. Few in our society are entrusted with so much knowledge and so much responsibility," he said.
Taiwo Adesoye was in the audience for Emanuel’s address, joined by much of her family from Lagos, Nigeria.
“It was wonderful to hear the mayor say that no matter how much or how hard you fall, you can always rise,” said her brother Adebola Adesoye. “Taiwo is the first in our family to become a doctor, and she overcame difficult obstacles to accomplish this.”
At the diploma ceremony for the graduates of the College, President Zimmer shook hands with the 1,145 candidates as they received their bachelor’s degrees. Each division paused to honor the quality of their classroom instruction by recognizing the winners of the 2012 Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
In keeping with tradition, the class of 2012 chose three students to speak at the ceremony. Student speaker Blair Thornburgh of Philadelphia, Penn., AB in Medieval Studies, used her address to encourage her classmates to look without fear toward the next phase of their lives, because each would have their friends to make the journey with them.
“The future is not a shiny speeding train, but a car full of friends honking in the driveway, inviting you to join them,” she said.
Stephen Raudenbush, the Lewis-Sebring Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, delivered the 511th Convocation address. Raudenbush, who chairs the Committee on Education at UChicago, studies child development within social settings like schools and neighborhoods. This spring, he joined the National Academy of Sciences as an elected fellow.
Geoffrey W. Marcy, an astronomer and exoplanet expert and professor of astronomy and director of the Center for Integrative Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley, recieves his Doctor of Science honorary degree.
President Zimmer bestows (right) the University of Chicago Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service on Timuel Black. The Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Creative and Performing Arts was presented to Anne Bogart, an avant-garde theater director and theorist.
Catherine Baumann, Senior Lecturer in Germanic Studies and the College, serves as University Marshal at Convocation.
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