Summer ceremonies

Since its 1893 founding the University of Chicago has celebrated 478 convocations, most of them following formats similar to Friday’s: the Student Marshals and graduates processed through Rockefeller Chapel; Dean Alison Boden offered a prayer; Angela Olinto, chair of astronomy and astrophysics, delivered a short address; the student choir sang an anthem; President Don Randel awarded degrees; and everyone who knew the lyrics sang along to the Alma Mater. The most noticeable difference between Summer Convocation and the graduation exercises held earlier this year wasn’t the ceremonial proceedings; it was the 90-degree temperature in Rockefeller.

Well-dressed audience members fanned themselves with Convocation programs. The musicians quietly asked their director for permission to perform from the chapel’s ground level rather than in the elevated, overheated choir loft. The graduates wiped their brows, finding no respite from the heat in their floor-length black and maroon gowns.

But when President Randel called forward the graduating students and decreed, “By virtue of the authority delegated to me, I confer to you the degree of Bachelor of Liberal Arts, and I welcome you to this ancient and honorable company of scholars,” the years of education and the half-hour of suffering through the weather suddenly seemed, to the graduates and their guests, time well-spent.

Leila S. Sales, ’06

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August 30, 2004