University News

121 commence at midyear ceremony

Contributing Writer
Sunday, December 4, 2011

The philosophies of Eleanor Roosevelt, Kermit the Frog and Pink Floyd were invoked as faculty, students and President Ruth Simmons took the stage of Salomon 101 Saturday to recognize the 121 members of the class of 2011.5.

In what was her last midyear graduation address, Simmons acknowledged some students might feel a “twinge of concern” about the end of their Brown education. But rather than dwelling on what was ending, Simmons asked graduates to reflect on how they had access to a “freedom that few in the world have experienced” and to take their places “on the battlements of the long struggle” to maintain human rights and “fragile freedoms.”

Though the group of students celebrated is diverse in experience, Renee Neely ‘11.5 said in her speech that each midyear graduate is unified by the risks that he or she took to do something out of the ordinary. Neely, who returned to Brown last year after leaving in 1975, praised the “spirit of possibility” at Brown and its “most liberal education,” neither of which she said had changed since she began her education at the University.

The last to address the graduates, Diane Lipscombe, professor of neuroscience, congratulated students for “experimenting” with their education and taking “so many different actions.” Comparing the undergraduate experience to the brain, she said it was the “accumulation of actions” that combine to make up an education, like the 86 billion neurons that combine in each brain to make a decision.

Though Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron asked the crowd of students and parents to remain quiet until the last graduate had walked, the auditorium echoed as each graduate was cheered to the stage to shake Simmons’ hand and receive a personally signed letter. The graduates left the celebration to the theme from the Wallace and Gromit movie “A Grand Day Out” by composer Julian Nott.

“I really liked Renee’s speech,” said Camila Moraes ‘11.5, who took time off to work at a consulting firm and explore other extracurricular activities she could not find time for at Brown. “It was very sincere — full of emotion.”

Anshu Vaish ‘11.5 seconded the sentiment, adding that the atmosphere of the celebration was “exciting, jubilant, invigorating” but also “sad.”

“It’s game over,” he explained. “But not really, because you can just hit replay and start on a higher level.”

No caps and gowns were worn at the ceremony. The Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, designates only one commencement ceremony each year in May, and .5ers are encouraged to walk in either the previous May’s ceremony, the next May’s or both.

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