Marisa Peryer

Under a sunny Monday morning sky, the Yale College class of 2019 and graduating students from 13 professional and graduate schools marched onto a muddy Old Campus for Yale’s 318th Commencement.

At the ceremony, the University conferred 4,015 degrees — including 1,387 for graduating seniors in Yale College — and 11 honorary doctorates. Following an hour-long procession from Cross Campus, across the New Haven Green and onto Old Campus, the Commencement ceremony began at around 11 a.m. University President Peter Salovey delivered a greeting to the graduates and their guests, and his short address was followed by a prayer from University Chaplain Sharon Kugler.

“We gather to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of all of you,” Salovey said. “You’ve worked so hard to complete your programs of study. We salute your effort, your diligence, your talents and your intellect. We also join you in expressing gratitude for all who have supported you in these endeavors.”

This year’s honorary degree recipients included award-winning author and Class Day speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie GRD ’08; Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow; former U.S. Treasury Secretary and U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III; English scholar and classicist Mary Beard; actress and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade; artist Sheila Hicks ART ’57 ’59; businessman and entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa; wildlife researcher and program director for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants Cynthia Moss; former PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi SOM ’80; Roman Catholic Sister and anti-death penalty advocate Helen Prejean; and prominent feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem.

After Kugler’s prayer, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun presented Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees to two undergraduate representatives from each of the 14 residential colleges.

Then, one by one, the deans of each of Yale’s 13 graduate and professional schools presented their candidates to Salovey, and he officially conferred each set of degrees, prompting loud cheers from various sections of the audience. When Dean of the School of Nursing Ann Kurth presented her candidates, the crowd of nursing graduates erupted and released a shower of multicolored confetti around them. Several nursing students waved signs with messages such as “Abortion is healthcare,” “Midwives for abortion” and “Abortion saves lives.” After Salovey conferred degrees to graduates from the School of Public Health, they chanted from the crowd, “Vaccinate your kids!”

After the audience joined the Glee Club in singing “Thy praise alone,” a hymn sung at the first Commencement after the naming of Yale College in 1718, Salovey and University Provost Benjamin Polak conferred honorary doctorates upon 11 recipients, eight of whom were women.

Upon presenting their degrees, Salovey said a few words praising each honorary degree recipient, calling Nooyi an “intrepid trailblazer” and saying that Steinem “spearheaded a movement and changed our world, giving women greater freedom to chart their own courses in life.”

To end the ceremony, Divinity School Dean Gregory Sterling gave a benediction.

“Bless these graduates with eyes to see what we have not seen, with minds to grasp what we have found incomprehensible, with hearts willing to risk failure to change what we have been unable to alter,” Sterling said.

Following Commencement, the professional schools, the residential colleges and the Graduate School each held their own diploma ceremonies at various locations around campus.

Sammy Westfall |

Asha Prihar |

Asha Prihar served as managing editor of the News during the 2019-20 academic year. Before that, she covered community service, Yale's professional schools and undergraduate student life as a staff reporter. She is a senior in Silliman College studying political science.