“I find it very exciting that today’s graduates hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and 56 other countries,” Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 said in her Class Day speech on Sunday.
The families and friends of those graduating seniors in the class of 2018 traveled from across the country and all over the world to attend Yale’s commencement ceremonies last weekend. For some, the weekend’s events — culminating in the University-wide Commencement on Monday — provided an opportunity to see Yale for the first time. Others returned to a hub of sentimental memories.
None of the traveling families were able to attend Clinton’s speech, however. With thunderstorms predicted for Sunday afternoon, Yale moved the undergraduate Class Day ceremony from Old Campus to Woolsey Hall, which has limited seating and was open only to the graduating students. The storm never actually arrived, but family members and other visitors were forced to gather in overflow locations around campus to watch the speech on projector screens.
“We were looking forward to seeing Hillary, but we couldn’t,” said Jasmine Jaywan, who came from Princeton Junction, New Jersey to see her son graduate.
Still, for the most part, the families of the graduates — whether first-time visitors or alumni themselves — said they enjoyed the trip to Yale.
Carl and Kim Epstein travelled from the San Francisco to support a graduating friend. The Epsteins are not native Californians: They both grew up in New Haven before making their way to the Bay Area.
“We went to San Francisco by way of Michigan, by way of a variety of places, for 20 years,” Kim Epstein said. “It looks different, I’ll tell you that — I had forgotten how pretty Connecticut was.”
Lauren Shearley said she now lives in New Hampshire, but grew up in Connecticut and was happy to return on beautiful day in her home state: sunny skies and high temperatures approaching 72 degrees greeted the graduates and their guests on Old Campus during Commencement.
Shearley said her daughter was graduating from the Yale School of Medicine and that her father and sister are also Yale alumni.
“I’ve been here many times,” she said. “We took the train in from Greenwich, it was awesome — I mean what a day, how lucky are we?”
Rick Harrington ’80, who travelled from Buffalo, New York to see his son-in-law receive a doctorate in political theory on Monday, had a similar take: He and his daughter are both Yale graduates, so “it’s familiar coming back.”
Yale also made a good impression on those who traveled to campus for the first time. Nnaemeka Ugwu came all the way from Nigeria to support a friend who was graduating. “It’s very important to see what Yale looks like and feel the vibe, and so far so good,” Ugwu said. “It’s definitely what I thought it would be.”
Cynthia Marsh travelled from Minneapolis to see her son graduate from the Yale Divinity School. Marsh stayed in an Old Campus dorm for the duration of her trip.
“It is very spartan,” Marsh said of her lodgings. “I am dreaming of who’s been living here all year, and what their experience was like.”