From Old Campus cakes to prestigious visiting lecturers, Yale has been vigorously celebrating its 300th birthday, and the seniors in charge of selecting a Class Day speaker are looking for someone fitting for such a commemoration.
Members of the Senior Class Council have begun the search process but are being careful not to reveal how far along they are and the identities of potential speakers. Class Day chairs said they will choose a dynamic speaker who understands the significance of Yale’s tercentennial for this year’s address to the graduating class.
“We are looking for someone who understands the special occasion for us and for the University,” said Abu Demissie ’01, co-chairman of the Class Day committee.
As in past, the committee sent out surveys to the entire senior class asking for their input about what kinds of speakers they would like to hear. Seniors were asked to rate the importance of such qualities as Yale affiliation, name recognition, oratory skill and sense of humor.
While Demissie would not comment on specific results of the survey, he did say that students said they highly valued oratory skill in a potential speaker, as well as someone who reflects the special occasion of the tercentennial.
Demissie and Class Day co-chair Theodore DeWitt ’01 would not comment on potential speakers because they may have to extend invitations to more than one candidate.
“We can’t say who we’ve invited or if we have invited anyone,” Demissie said. “If the word gets out, [and that speaker falls through] then the next person knows they were a second choice.”
Demissie said the class council is on schedule for securing a speaker.
“Let me say this,” Demissie said, “we are definitely on track to get someone, and someone people like.”
Many seniors who responded to the survey said they hoped the Class Day speaker would be both interesting and entertaining.
“I am not as emotional about the Class Day speaker as other people apparently are,” Todd Moen ’01 said. “I’d like anybody interesting who would hold the attention of our class.”
Lori Collins ’01 said the fame or professional accomplishments of the speaker were not important to her.
“I’d rather be entertained,” Collins said.
She cited David Hyde Pierce ’81, who plays Niles Crane on the television show Frasier, as the speaker she would most like to hear.
Seniors also said they appreciated the efforts of the Class Day committee to gather student input.
“They have made the effort to survey the class and solicit opinions,” Moen said. “No matter who they choose, not everyone will be happy, but they have tried to please as many people as they can.”
Past Class Day speakers tend to be Yale alumni. Bob Woodward ’65 spoke last year and David Gergen ’63 addressed the graduating class of 1999.
In addition to hearing the keynote speaker on Class Day, seniors are honored with awards and hear their class history and the Ivy Ode, a poem written by a graduating student. Class Day will be held Sunday, May 20, and the University Commencement, at which degrees are conferred, is Monday, May 21.