Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Kathryn Hahn declares class of 2024 “worthy of celebration” in commencement address

Northwestern%E2%80%99s+class+of+2024+is+made+up+of+7%2C720+undergraduate+and+graduate+students.
Lucas Kim/The Daily Northwestern
Northwestern’s class of 2024 is made up of 7,720 undergraduate and graduate students.

“Special,” “golden,” “together” — all words used to describe the class of 2024 by various speakers during Northwestern’s 166th Annual Commencement Ceremony at the United Center Sunday.

Many of this year’s graduating class, made up of 7,720 undergraduate and graduate students, began their college experience online, with some attending their first in-person class sophomore year.

Commencement speaker Kathryn Hahn (Communication ’95) lauded the students’ arduous, yet fulfilling journeys during her commencement address.

“You’ve been having to navigate this crazy, accelerating landscape of anger, polarity and comments and just staring at your own faces, shouting into the void,” Hahn said. “You and your class are going through something together that is once in a lifetime and worthy of celebration.”

A critically acclaimed actress and comedian, Hahn is known for her performances in TV series and films such as “WandaVision,” “Bad Moms,” “Glass Onion” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” among others.

Fittingly, Hahn leaned on her humor to connect with an audience filled with graduates, alumni, faculty, family and friends.

“The almost-official alums of Northwestern University, congratulations,” Hahn said. “I say almost-official alums because no matter what happens today, you aren’t official until they start asking you for money.”

Hahn also encouraged graduates to find beauty in chaos and embrace their own artist in secret, something that involves “(knowing) who you are and what you want.”

The actress — who said she met her future husband in Hinman Dining Hall her freshman year — cited poet William Blake to remind students that they have sole control over how they react to life’s challenges.

“The most important thing of any generation to discover is if you change your attitude, you change everything,” Hahn said. “You get to decide what resides in your soul. You get to decide whether or not to make it beautiful.”

Hahn was one of four individuals receiving honorary doctorate degrees from University President Michael Schill for contributions to their respective fields. Alongside Hahn, tennis trailblazer Katrina Adams, renowned reporter David Barstow (Medill ’86) and acclaimed physicist David Reitze (Weinberg ’83) were recognized Sunday. 

Schill, in his second NU commencement ceremony, applauded the graduates for their courage while sustaining their academic careers under exceptional circumstances, particularly the pandemic.  

“You endured. You are here,” Schill said. “You, the class of 2024, have a unique and powerful perspective on the world. What you have learned, what you have experienced will give you the tools to make change.”

Shortly following Schill’s welcoming remarks, Board of Trustees Chair Peter Barris (McCormick ’74) began his greeting address, during which approximately 50 graduating students silently walked out of the ceremony, some carrying Palestinian flags. 

The students left the arena to join a growing group of family and community members across the street in the University’s designated “free speech zone,” which was announced Tuesday as a measure against potential disruptions during Graduation Weekend events.

Following Hahn’s address and the conferral of doctorate degrees, Kellogg graduate student speaker Shalom Ikhena shared the importance of student contributions to society in her commencement remarks.

Ikhena, a citizen of Abuja, Nigeria, called on fellow graduates to search for their overarching purpose beyond just their individual goals. 

“I have spent the last two years doing what I believe is the work of my lifetime,” Ikhena said. “And that is to learn about ourselves just enough that we can truly serve this world better. To find out how our individual pieces fit the puzzle of something that needs to be healed in the world.”

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