Under cloudy skies, graduating seniors, accompanied by families, faculty and administrators, marched into Old Campus Monday morning to take part in Yale’s 316th Commencement. The rain mostly held off as University President Peter Salovey conferred 3,618 degrees on the graduates of Yale College and graduate schools.
University President Peter Salovey welcomed students and their guests to the ceremony at just after 10:30 a.m.
“We gather to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of all of you,” Salovey said from a stage overlooking Old Campus. “We salute your effort, your talent, your diligence and your intellect.”
The ceremony was briefly interrupted by an unidentified man, who rushed the stage in the middle of an invocation, led by the University chaplain, that followed Salovey’s welcome. The man stole the microphone from the chaplain and said, “I love Yale as much as anyone who has never gone here possibly could,” before various security and police officers dragged him off stage and escorted him off Old Campus. Three Yale police officers interviewed by the News said they had not yet identified the man and did not know if he was affiliated with Local 33, Yale’s graduate student union, or another organization.
The chaplain finished the invocation after his removal, and the ceremony continued as scheduled.
Despite the distraction, the mood was cheery and celebratory. Members of the School of Nursing threw confetti, shot silly string and ignited firecrackers. Some graduates of the drama school wore clown noses.
John Kerry ’66 BA and Steveland Morris, more commonly known as Stevie Wonder, were among eight honorary degree recipients this year, the University’s highest honor. Kerry received a law degree and Morris a master’s degree in music. When Morris received his degree, he received a standing ovation.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, a well-known civil rights activist, received a Doctor of Laws; author and social activist Ngugi Wa Thiong’o received an honorary Doctor of Letters; and esteemed neurobiologist Cornelia Bargmann received a doctor of science degree. Marin Alsop, the first female music director of a major American orchestra, received an honorary Doctor of Music degree. Irwin Jacobs received a Master’s degree in engineering. Jessie Little Doe Baird, a linguist of indigenous languages who has worked to preserve the Wampanoag language, received a Doctor of social science.
Yale held a banquet for the recipients of honorary degrees Sunday night at the Center for British Art.
President Salovey conferred 1,332 degrees to Yale College, 66 to the School of Architecture, 63 to the School of Drama, 113 to the School of music, 104 to the School of Nursing, 145 to the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 432 to the School of Management, 134 to the Divinity School, 659 to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 140 to the School of Public Health, 129 to the School of Medicine, and 59 to the School of Art. Robert Post, dean of the Law School, announced 242 provisional degrees, as the faculty will not vote on degrees until May 31.
Local 33 also held a rally on the New Haven Green Monday morning, just a block from the ceremony. Some graduating students carried banners and signs expressing their solidarity with those calling for the University to open negotiations with the graduate student union. One law student held a sign emblazoned with the Local 33 logo that read “Just the beginning, Yale.”
But members of the Local 33 protest did not attempt to enter Old Campus or disrupt the ceremony.
The ceremony concluded just before noon.
Correction, May 22: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Marin Alsop is the first music director of a major American orchestra. In fact, she is the first woman to hold the position.