Commencement 2015: Go Forth, Spark Change

Mike Lovett

Brandeis’ newest graduates celebrated their academic achievements and contemplated their future at the university’s 64th Commencement ceremony, held on May 17.

Members of the Class of 2015 were encouraged to make public service a part of their lives by keynoter Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, who spoke before an audience of more than 7,000 in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center.

“Service to country, to family, to friends, to our society remains an extremely important part of what determines our success as people, as a nation, and in our world,” said Pickering, whose high-profile diplomatic career has spanned five decades.

He reminded listeners that public service is still a career for people who value integrity, self-sacrifice, judgment and wisdom. “Public service is part of the common cement that makes us a great country and a leader in the world,” he said. “But even more important, it makes great individuals even greater.”

In his final Commencement address as Brandeis president, Frederick M. Lawrence encouraged the graduates to embrace the changes that lie ahead.

“We have all been thinking quite a bit about transitions — you as you prepare to complete your Brandeis careers today, and I as I prepare to complete my presidency next month,” Lawrence said. “Change is about opportunity, about potential, about growth and, above all, about beginnings. After all, today is not called ‘conclusion’ or even ‘transition’ — it is called ‘commencement.’”

At the main ceremony, Brandeis bestowed honorary degrees to Pickering and to dancer Suzanne Farrell, author Jamaica Kincaid, restaurateur and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi, and poetry critic Helen Hennessy Vendler.

In all, Brandeis conferred 957 undergraduate degrees and 877 graduate degrees and certificates. Nearly half of the undergraduates were double majors, and 29 of them were triple majors.

As they enjoyed their day, the new grads said they were ready for their next step but would not leave Brandeis behind. Said Roy Fan, an economics and politics double major who plans to attend law school, “I’ve never felt more at home than here.”

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