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Super Commencement Update

December 1, 1998

Carol J. Schlueter

As university registrar, Earl Retif has witnessed a lot of Tulane commencement ceremonies--nearly 250--in his 22 years on campus, but he has never watched one in the Superdome. That will change on May 14, 1999.

Commencement 1999 will kick off in the Superdome with a unified ceremony led by President Scott Cowen, who will confer degrees upon graduates. Eight of Tulane's 11 schools and colleges will officially participate, while three other schools will hold their ceremonies at other times due to differences in academic calendars.

The commencement committee has been working with constituents across campus on the massive project since May, and the schedule for the day of events is taking shape. One important change from earlier plans is that Cowen's inauguration will not take place during commencement, says Debbie Grant, executive director of university relations and head of the commencement committee.

Grant says the inauguration ceremony, along with Cowen's inaugural address, will take place in September 1999 at a fall convocation, allowing the committee to concentrate this spring solely on commencement planning. The search is on for a nationally known speaker for the unified commencement ceremony.

Retif, a member of the committee, applauds the idea of a joint ceremony, which was last used by Tulane some 30 years ago before the event's size caused the shift to individual school ceremonies.

"I really do think it's a good idea" to have a central ceremony that will bring the co mmunity together, Retif says. Tulane College dean Tony Cummings, also a committee member, agrees. "There is virtue to having a single commencement," he says. "As always, it's a question of the details; it's not an uncomplicated matter to move to a single university ceremony, but I'm confident we'll get there."

Here's a look at the schedule of events as it now stands for Friday, May 14. A faculty breakfast will open the festivities at 8:15 a.m., with the ceremony on the main Superdome floor beginning at 10 a.m. Cowen will give a brief welcome, various awards will be presented, the speaker will give the commencement speech, Cowen will confer degrees upon graduates and doctoral candidates will receive diplomas and hoods.

A reception will begin around 11:30 a.m. in an area of the Superdome. Grant expects 12,000 to 15,000 people to attend the morning events, including graduates, faculty, staff and visitors. Individual college and school diploma ceremonies will follow in the afternoon.

Some arrangements have not been completed, but at this time the schedule is as follows: Newcomb College, 1 p.m., Superdome; University College, 1 p.m., Superdome; Freeman School of Business, 1:30 p.m., McAlister Auditorium; School of Architecture, 1:30 p.m., Superdome or Richardson Memorial Building; School of Engineering, 1:30 p.m., Superdome; School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1:30 p.m., Superdome or Dixon Hall; and Tulane College, 4:30 p.m., Superdome.

Because of schedule differences, Grant says, no degrees will be conferred or diplomas granted in this ceremony for graduates of the School of Medicine, Tulane Law School or the School of Social Work. She says, however, "We welcome them to march and participate" in the unified ceremony.

The School of Social Work traditionally holds its commencement in December, with this year's event on Dec. 18 in McAlister Auditorium. The law and medical schools are on a later academic calendar; neither will be finished grading students by the May 14 unified commencement ceremony. Tulane Law School commencement will be held May 21 at the Morial Convention Center. The date for the School of Medicine ceremony at McAlister Auditorium is June 5.

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