Commencement Notebook: Rainy weather doesn’t deter graduation ceremony


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

NU graduates wave to their families during 2018 commencement. The ceremony was held at Ryan Field, as scheduled, despite the rainy weather.

Elizabeth Byrne, Summer Editor

Embracing the rain

There was an emphasis on keeping everything short at Northwestern’s commencement Friday, as graduates sat in the folding chairs on Ryan Field in a constant downpour.

The University proceeded with 2018 commencement despite the rainy weather and cool temperatures. Volunteers helped prepare guests and graduates for the weather by handing out free ponchos.

During his opening speech, University President Morton Schapiro blamed himself for the rain and said students seated toward the back had asked him to “accelerate” the ceremony because of the weather. He agreed and the graduates cheered.

“For those of you watching online … you’re all warm and cozy,” Schapiro said. “Don’t brag about it. It’s not Midwestern.”

Mark Ledogar (Communication ’89), president of the NU alumni association, said the graduates showed the “wildcat spirit” for sitting in the rain during commencement. During his speech, he described the connection graduates have to NU as “timeless.”

Ledogar added that the Class of 1968, who attended Friday’s commencement in celebration of their 50th anniversary, was an example of the strong NU connection.

“Wherever you go and whatever you do embrace and nurture the powerful lifelong bond that we share that is Northwestern,” Ledogar said. “That’s what Wildcats do.”

Receiving Honorary Degrees

Renée Fleming received an Honorary Doctor of Arts from the University in addition to her commencement address to the Class of 2018. Her honorary degree was presented by Bienen School of Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery, and announced by Provost Jonathan Holloway.

“As a generous mentor to young talent, you are inspiring tomorrow’s vocal luminaries, helping ensure that the musical arts will continue to flourish,” Holloway said.

Fleming was one of four individuals to receive honorary degrees. NU also awarded Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick (Bienen ’49) with an Honorary Doctor of Arts. While at NU, Harnick wrote for The Waa-Mu Show and continued on after NU to co-create the Tony-award winning musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Former NU Board of Trustees chair, William Osborn (WCAS ’69, Kellogg ’73), received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and Subra Suresh, former director of the National Science Foundation, received an honorary Doctor of Science.

Honoring Emeritus faculty 

The Board of Trustees also recognized 35 emeritus faculty that are retiring from their full-time service at NU. Among the faculty honored were Weinberg lecturer Mark Sheldon and Kellogg Prof. Philip Kotler, who worked at NU for 55 years.

Combined, the 35 faculty members have contributed nearly 11 centuries of service to the University, Schapiro said.

“As scholars they have helped transformed their disciplines,” Schapiro said. “Their impact on the countless students with whom they have worked is beyond measure.”

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