Commencement Frenzy Builds

April 29, 2002

Carol J. Schlueter
Phone: 865-5714

What about grandma's wheelchair? How do I get from the Superdome to the Municipal Auditorium? Where do I get my cap and gown? The phone calls--about 10 a day--await Billie Banker in the president's office. It is, after all, about a month days until commencement and everyone is getting restless.

Graduating students and their families are preparing to come to New Orleans for the May 16-19 Commencement Weekend and despite a special Web site, letters and invitations, there are always nervous questions. Banker, executive assistant to President Scott Cowen, has all the answers, but even she was stumped by the call from a student whose grandmother's strict religious rules required her to avoid things such as escalators and elevators in the Superdome.

Maybe he should give grandma the commencement video instead, Banker replied. Commencement frenzy has taken over campus, from Gibson Hall to the deans' offices to public relations and publications. The details are in place for the 12,000 grads and visitors who will congregate on the uptown campus Friday, May 17, for the Wave Goodbye party, and stream into the Superdome the next morning.

The Wave Goodbye celebration for grads and their families, featuring Louisiana food and music on the Gibson Quad, starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets, which are complimentary, are required for the party and will be distributed to students only from April 22 to 26. Any remaining tickets will be made available to students, faculty and staff (Tulane IDs are required) starting Monday, May 13, from noon until 6 p.m. at the University Center information desk and the medical school dean's office.

This year, only 12,000 tickets will be distributed, because of safety concerns and the capacity of the quad. University Commencement, in which Cowen confers all degrees, begins at 9:30 a.m. on May 18 in the Superdome, and a shuttle bus will begin running at 7:30 a.m. from the Diboll Complex on the uptown campus to the Superdome to transport faculty members and others.

The commencement speaker will be William Safire, acclaimed author and journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in his twice-weekly column in The New York Times. A successful Superdome ceremony depends on a team of Tulane volunteers. David White, assistant director of risk management, is busy recruiting staff who will help guide visitors, hand out programs and make sure the event is a smooth one.

He needs about 150 volunteers "who have a few hours to give" to the university's most important ceremony of the year. Volunteers can e-mail White ( or call him at 865-5653. All volunteers will receive a free parking pass, continental breakfast, lunch, a commemorative recognition pin and a special Tulane University shirt. Additionally, all volunteers will receive two tickets to this year's Wave Goodbye event, which features The Rebirth Brass Band and Marcia Ball.

After University Commencement ends, school and college diploma ceremonies will be held across the city (see schedule at left). Free shuttle buses will run between the Superdome, the up-town campus and the Municipal Auditorium and Theatre for the Performing Arts on Saturday.

Carol J. Schlueter may be reached at

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000