Courtesy of Dzidedi Azumah

Members of the class of 2023 gathered on Old Campus last Monday morning, joined by family, friends and faculty, to celebrate the University’s 322nd Commencement ceremony. 

In an hour-long procession, Yale College students and students in the University’s graduate and professional schools sported caps and gowns as they filed into the nearly twenty thousand chairs arranged on Old Campus. In total, the University conferred 4,193 degrees, including 1,436 degrees for undergraduates and 2,757 graduate and professional degrees.

“We gather to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of all of you, all of you who have worked so hard to complete your programs of study,” University President Peter Salovey said in his welcome address. “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, your friends, your teachers and other members of the Yale community.”

The event featured performances from the Yale University Concert Band and hymns led by the Yale Glee Club.

After Salovey’s opening remarks, University Chaplain Sharon Kugler gave an invocation to the soon-to-be graduates.

“We who share this beautiful but aching world. We who look at the same sun and the same moon are a people called to communal restoration,” Kugler said. “As students of your handiwork, we have gathered here from throughout the Earth with exquisite ambitions and have been blessed at this place of light and truth with the freedom to let them grow.”

The awarding of degrees began with Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis, who — in his first Commencement ceremony as dean — celebrated 1,401 undergraduate students. The Yale College class of 2023 earned a total of 835 Bachelor of Arts and 562 Bachelor of Science degrees as well as 20 Master of Arts and 19 Master of Science degrees. 

Yale College students each wore sashes identifying their residential college affiliations, with some also expressing school and residential college pride in other ways. Students in Saybrook College donned grapes on their graduation caps, and graduates of the Yale School of the Environment wore caps adorned with greenery and floral arrangements.

Next, the deans of Yale’s graduate and professional schools presented students as candidates for degrees. Salovey subsequently conferred the degrees to each student. Following the bestowing of degrees, students celebrated with roaring applause, showering Old Campus with confetti, pom-poms and streamers.

Yale Provost Scott Strobel then joined Salovey onstage to present nine candidates for honorary doctorate degrees. 

Honorands included the Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie G. Bunch III, who received a Doctor of Humane Letters; artist, author and curator Deborah Willis, who received a Doctor of Humanities; judge and legal scholar Guido Calabresi ’53 B.A., ’58 LL.B., who received a Doctor of Laws; biographer Robert Caro, who received a Doctor of Letters; astrophysicist France Córdova, who formerly served as the director of the National Science Foundation and received a Doctor of Science; and immunologist Max Dale Cooper, who is known for characterizing T cells and B cells and received a Doctor of Medical Sciences. 

A Doctor of Fine Arts was conferred to actor Paul Giamatti ’89 B.A., ’94 M.F.A. as well as architects Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk ’74 M.ARCH. and Andrés Duany ’74 M.ARCH. 

The ceremony concluded with the singing of the closing hymn, “Let Light and Truth Suffuse the Mind.” The hymn was followed by a benediction from Gregory Sterling, the dean of the Divinity School. 

Finally, students walked through Phelps Gate one last time, departing to receive their diplomas in ceremonies held by their respective residential colleges and professional and graduate schools. 

Some students also attended celebrations organized by other campus organizations, such as academic departments, certificate programs and the University’s cultural centers. The Afro-American Cultural Center, for example, saw a record turnout at their annual Black Graduates’ celebration.

“The House is such an important part of many Yalies’ experience, particularly Black Yalies, and being able to celebrate graduation as a community is truly special,” Timeica Bethel ’11, director of the Af-Am House, wrote in an email to the News. 

Keeping with Yale College tradition, on May 21 — the Sunday before Commencement — members of the class of 2023 attended Class Day Exercises and a Baccalaureate Ceremony. 

Poet Elizabeth Alexander ’84 delivered the 2023 Class Day address. At the Baccalaureate Ceremony, Salovey issued an address focused on service and community engagement.

“For those of you who will soon disperse around the globe… we hope that you will reprise what you have done here,” Salovey said in his Baccalaureate Address. “We hope that you will be known as much for your curiosity of mind as your generosity of spirit. We hope that wherever it is upon life’s sea you sail, you will arrive there not only as proud alumni of this university but as emissaries of its ethos, ready, once again, to raise your hand and engage.”

The first Yale Commencement was held in Saybrook, Connecticut in 1702.

Molly Reinmann covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Westchester, New York, she is a sophomore in Berkeley College majoring in American Studies.