May 1, 1999
By the time these words are published, Tulane University will have enjoyed its first universitywide commencement in 30 years. Our young people will have passed over the threshold from students to alumni, and will have headed out to face the world. Parents will have watched their children move into independent adulthood--or at least they hope so.
Our entire university community will have seen the grandeur and ceremony that accompanies what for many of us will be an annual event but what for the students and their families was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. I hope you were there to enjoy it with us. It is important that Tulane has rejoined the ranks of major universities holding unified commencement ceremonies this year.
These large, ceremonial commencement gatherings are useful not only for all the reasons already mentioned above, but also are vital to the university as a whole in less tangible ways. For example, such ceremonies reinforce a sense of community by bringing together all corners of the institution. Undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff and parents, from Tulane's various schools and colleges--all of us unite to celebrate the Tulane community as well as to provide a ceremonial passage for our students.
Each one of us had a role to play in the education of those who are graduating, and a grand, unified commencement ceremony gives us all a chance to celebrate those roles. To have a strong and vibrant university, you need occasions to come together and celebrate the successes and achievements of the institution as a whole.
Commencement offers just such a time. Unified commencements also enable us to establish new traditions and, through those traditions, to express our own unique and special characteristics. Master of fine arts candidate Jonathan Hils designed a beautiful academic mace, first used this year, that will have an important place in our future commencements.
Professor emeritus Franklin Adams designed a special medal that establishes for Tulane a new tradition of the President's Medal, which will enable us to recognize individuals who have contributed to the well-being of the university. Even as it offers us the opportunity to establish new traditions, the unified commencement allows us to honor our past.
Tulane University celebrated its first unified commencement a century ago. Commencement 1999 allowed us to revive the grand regalia of a formal ceremony and the amazing sight of a full-university processional. Great universities use their annual, unifying celebration of commencement as a way to affirm their past and take aim at their future. As our own great university, Tulane deserves no less.
-Scott S. Cowen
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org