No sweat


Perhaps blinded by all the flash bulbs, parents and friends don't seem to notice the "NO PHOTOGRAPHY DURING CEREMONY" signs adorning numerous columns in Rockefeller Chapel. While the parade of robed graduates goes by, many guests attending Chicago's 491st convocation are intent on capturing their visages. Those receiving degrees try to smile as they pass their supporters without slowing the procession or tripping on their academic vestments.

As the audience members take their seats, University Marshal Lorna Straus explains that William Rainey Harper started the tradition of holding convocation every quarter. Chicago doesn't call it graduation or commencement, she says, instead emphasizing how the ceremony brings the University community together.

Next, José Quintáns, the William Rainey Harper professor in pathology and the College, ascends the pulpit for the convocation address, which he titled "Make It Easy, It Is Going to Be Hot." The provost, he explains, told him to keep his speech light because the chapel gets so muggy. Quintáns, master of the BSD, sports a Groucho Marx mustache; a bright yellow robe from his alma mater, University of Santiago de Compostela; white gloves; and a fringed yellow cap. One of his ancestors, he says, was "dean of academic attire" at the Spanish institution in the 15th century and "appreciated the fashion value of lampshades." He then gives the crowd a biological primer on sweating. As the listeners wallow in Rockefeller's warmth, Quintáns remonstrates, "Sweating is the adaptive response of non-furry animals to heat. For those who don't like it," he adds, "think of the alternative: panting."

Seth Mayer, '08

Photos: A family gets ready for convocation; a full house inside Rockefeller Chapel.

August 29, 2007