Amidst the celebration of Brown’s 250th anniversary, the University awarded 2,440 diplomas Sunday to the class of 2014, including 1,594 bachelor’s degrees.
The ceremonies began Saturday with the Baccalaureate service held at the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. The service included prayers from major faiths and artistic performances celebrating the diverse cultural heritage of the graduating class.
Nalini Nadkarni ’76, professor of biology at the University of Utah, gave the Baccalaureate address. As an ecologist, Nadkarni studies tree canopies in the rainforest and advocates for the protection of the trees’ habitats.
Throughout her talk, Nadkarni used trees as a motif, tracing their role in many religious traditions and even inviting trees to join in the ceremony.
She reflected on the unorthodox ecology-related programs she has started — having prison inmates raise endangered plants and animals, inviting artists into the canopy and teaching tattoo artists how to draw biologically correct trees.
When she received the invitation to speak at Baccalaureate, Nadkarni said, she thought the University had made a mistake, given the nonlinear path she has taken in her career. “Know if the straight path between Earth and sky is appropriate for you,” she advised the new graduates.
Toward the end of her speech, she encouraged graduates to take out their phones and send a “flash tweet” of their dreams and goals, accompanied by the hashtag #Brown2014.
On Sunday morning, the undergraduate class of 2014 marched out through the Van Wickle Gates and reconvened the College Ceremony at the First Baptist Church, where President Christina Paxson officially granted them bachelor’s degrees.
In her remarks, Paxson compared the brief ceremony to those of past centuries when the service included 20 speeches and all students, family members and community members could fit into the church. Though those days are over, Paxson said the University’s values of social justice, dedication to the humanities and global outlook have endured.
All graduating students then gathered on the Main Green for the University Commencement service. Caroline Bologna ’14 and Joshua Block ’14 gave orations for the senior class.
Bologna spoke about the overwhelming experience of attending the Activities Fair as a first-year, in a talk entitled “Labels.” She urged graduates to look beyond assigning labels to themselves and others based on what activities they join. “I can’t begin to characterize myself as a particular type of person,” she said.
Her experiences in classes transcended those labels and made her aware of the limitations of what she knew, she said.
“We didn’t come to Brown to find answers,” Bologna said. “We came to Brown to come up with better questions.”
In his talk, entitled “Listen,” Block encouraged graduates to seek out and listen to the opinions of others, particularly those with opposing viewpoints. “We understand there aren’t two sides to every argument, there are fifty.”
Honorary degrees were awarded to Lee Eliot Berk ’64, Beatrice Coleman ’25, Jeffrey Eugenides ’83, Arthur Horwich ’72 MD’75, Mary Lou Jepsen ’87 PhD’97, Debra Lee ’76, Lois Lowry ’58, Nadkarni and Thomas Perez ’83.
Undergraduate diplomas were awarded to the class of 2014 at separate ceremonies for each department following the Commencement ceremony.