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Midyear graduation honors ‘point-fivers’

Student speakers reflect on leave-taking, benefits of Brown education

Just over 150 students graduated in the Midyear Completion Celebration Saturday afternoon, marking the 25th year that the University has honored students set to graduate at the end of the fall semester.

Enthusiastic students, parents and alums packed Salomon 101 to cheer on the graduates. A smaller but equally animated contingent watched a simulcast of the proceedings in Salomon 001.

The midyear graduates, whom many refer to as “point-fivers,” took part in a visibly lighthearted procession. Many dressed in creative semi-formal attire: Notable accessories included Hawaiian shirts and an intricate pirate-style bicorne.

Performances by the Van Wickle Winds preceded the ceremony and Mariami Bekauri GS opened the ceremony with a rendition of the national anthem.

Following an invocation by University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson, several faculty members made speeches praising the class of 2014.5. Speakers noted that the University stands apart from its peer institutions in holding a ceremony to honor midyear graduates.

“You as point-fivers have opened the curriculum as far as it can possibly open,” said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services. “You are perhaps the most Brunonian of all Brunonians.”

President Christina Paxson echoed Klawunn’s celebration of unconventional paths to graduation. In her remarks, Paxson lauded the “individuality” and “independence” of the December graduates and reminded them that they would have more power to effect social change going forward than they “ever had as students.”

Paxson also urged the class to stand against “injustice in all forms,” to “use education to do good in the world” and to hold on to the “sense of social responsibility that distinguishes Brown students and Brown alumni.”

Todd Harris ’14.5 and Maggie Tennis ’14.5, a Herald opinions editor, delivered speeches reflecting on their time at and away from Brown.

Tennis said she became a midyear graduate after deciding not to take a medical leave in the fall of her senior year and to complete an honors thesis. Delaying her graduation to complete her thesis afforded her the freedom to do the kind of work she “came to Brown to do,” she said.

“At Brown, a different approach to education is not odd; it’s expected,” she said. “By pushing us to direct our own educations, Brown positions us to be the leaders of our lives.”

Harris, who took a leave to work on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign following the death of a parent, said the option to do work he believed in was an essential opportunity to heal. “Although everything around us can often feel out of our control, one important choice that we do have the ability to make is the choice to continue growing.”

Provost Vicki Colvin’s remarks about her experience as a “double point-fiver” at Stanford University drew much laughter from the audience. While driving to take the Chemistry GRE during her senior year, her car “made a loud exploding sound and filled with smoke and flames,” preventing her from taking the exam and threatening her future plans. This experience of uncertainty affirmed her instinctive awareness of her true passions, she said.

She encouraged the graduates to recognize and trust their instincts. “Pay attention to each and every day of the remarkable life I know you’re going to have,” she said. “The true joy in life is unfolding it and not knowing the future.”


A previous version of this article misstated that Maggie Tennis ’14.5 decided to take a medical leave in the fall of her senior year. In fact, she decided not to take a medical leave. The article also previously stated that a student was wearing a pirate-style tricorne. In fact, it was a bicorne. The Herald regrets the errors.



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