Scarcely a cloud hovered over Old Campus Monday as University President Peter Salovey conferred undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees during Yale’s 313th Commencement ceremony.
At his first Commencement as University president, Salovey conferred a total of 3,132 degrees — 1302 of them to undergraduates — and 253 provisional degrees for students who have yet to fully complete their course of study. Yale also awarded 12 honorary degrees, considered the highest distinction granted by the University. Among the recipients were David Swensen, Yale’s chief investment officer, and Timothy Berners-Lee, credited with founding the World Wide Web.
“We gather to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of all of you who have worked so hard to complete your programs of study,” Salovey told the graduates. “We salute your effort, your diligence, your talent and your intellect. We also join you in expressing gratitude for all who have supported you in these endeavors: your families and friends, teachers and other members of the Yale community.”
While Sunday’s Class Day maintained a lighthearted atmosphere, complete with creative hats constructed by undergraduates, Monday’s ceremony took a more traditional tone. Graduates wore the formal cap and gown and marched onto Old Campus to a processional tune.
Still, Monday’s exercises were punctuated by creative expressions of school pride — including by drama students, who donned clown noses, and nursing students, who blew horns and shot silly string into the air.
Salovey formally announced degrees in Yale College and each of the graduate and professional schools following an invocation by University Chaplain Sharon Kugler. Although Salovey awarded representative degrees during the ceremony on Old Campus, most graduates receive their actual degrees in their residential colleges or respective schools shortly after the ceremony.
The awarding of degrees ended with a traditional exchange in Latin between Salovey and Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard, marking the conferral of degrees of doctor of philosophy.
After the singing of the psalm “Thy praise alone,” the ceremony proceeded to the presentation of 12 honorary degrees, awarded by Salovey and University Provost Benjamin Polak.
The recipients should serve as models for graduates as they go out into the world, Salovey said.
“They embody creativity, curiosity, discipline, integrity and a passion for social justice,” Salovey said. “Their presence here also honors you who graduate today and all of us who are here to salute you.”
Salovey praised Berners-Lee, and awarded him the doctor of engineering and technology, for democratizing the flow of knowledge. By creating a web client accessible via the Internet, Salovey said, Berners-Lee has “changed the way we live.”
In addition to Berners-Lee and Swensen, who received the doctor of humane letters, the other recipients were Rita Dove, Ramachandra Guha, Daniel Kahneman, Elliot Meyerowitz, Joseph Polisi, Michael Posner, Anna Deavere Smith, Ralph Stanley, Ahmed Zewail and Huda Zoghbi.
Scientists, historians, artists and public servants, their accomplishments include serving as the youngest U.S. poet laureate, conducting definitive historical research and serving as assistant secretary of state.
“You have shined a light on what is wrong in the ways we treat each other,” Salovey said while awarding an honorary doctor of laws to Posner, the founding director of what is now Human Rights First.
Guha is distinguished as one of the leading historians of modern India and a highly regarded public intellectual. The author of what is regarded as the definitive biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Guha captures “the spirit of [his] nation,” Salovey said.
Swensen, meanwhile, is notable at Yale for leading the University’s endowment for nearly three decades. Under his guidance, the endowment has grown from just over $1 billion to its current value of over $20 billion.
Yale’s 313th Commencement concluded with a benediction by Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling and a recessional performed by the Yale University Concert Band.