By Mark Peters | Photos by Jean Lachat

The University of Chicago held the inaugural Class Day on Friday, celebrating the past four years for College graduates with an eye clearly on the future.

In his address, Class Day speaker David Brooks, AB’83, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, discussed the intellectual excitement and lasting influence of a UChicago education.

“Chicago gives you a taste for mountaineering, for climbing up toward the summits of human existence. Afterwards you are never quite content living in the flatlands, living solely in the stuff that gets written about on Twitter or even in the newspapers or talked about on TV,” he said.

David Brooks, AB'83, tells students about how UChicago fundamentally changed him. Video Link: (Video by UChicago Creative)

But Brooks cautioned against a life dominated by knowledge and reason alone, stressing the need for graduates to pursue intimacy in their relationships, work and community. “Life will offer you a diminishing number of opportunities to show how smart you are. It will offer an infinite number of occasions that require kindness, mercy, grace, sensitivity, sympathy, generosity and love,” he said.

The new Class Day celebration kicked off Convocation weekend at UChicago. The University-wide Convocation ceremony will be held Saturday from 9:15 to 11 a.m. and webcast live. Later that day, the College and graduate divisions and schools will hold individual ceremonies in which diplomas will be presented.

Class Day brought together College graduates and their families and friends as well as the larger University community. The event included the tradition of student speakers, the presentations of the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and a tribute to John W. Boyer, who was appointed this year to an unprecedented sixth term as dean of the College.

Graduating students at UChicago

In remarks to the graduates, U.S. Rep. Rohit “Ro” Khanna, AB’98, detailed the complexity of the global, cultural, economic and religious landscapes, and how loud and self-assured politics has become.

“At this moment, we need some quieter voices in our national debate. We need thinkers. We need listeners. We need those who have studied history enough to be skeptical about easy slogans or simple promises,” said Khanna, whose California congressional district includes Silicon Valley.

Alumnus Ro Khanna
U.S. Rep. Rohit “Ro” Khanna, AB’98, spoke about the need for 'thinkers' and 'listeners' in national debates.

The student speakers selected by those graduating from the College mixed inside jokes about life at the University with reflections on challenges faced and opportunities and responsibilities ahead.

“Our celebration is bigger than us—it’s about all of the people who will never meet us, and yet be impacted by the things we do and say,” Elizabeth Adetiba said. “A degree from the University of Chicago will undoubtedly open many doors, but the real task is figuring out how we can use this degree to open doors for as many other people as possible.”

Karyn Peyton discussed the deep challenges and profound changes that occurred while studying at the University. “Graduation not only marks a moment of change; it marks a moment that you have changed. And I do firmly believe, with everything in me, that that is the aim of education,” she said.

Adolfo Alexander Vincent Morales framed his remarks as a speech at the wedding between his classmates and the University. He described the Class of 2017 as exactly what the University could want—“smart, intrepid, curious and you know where Waldo is”—while ending with a toast to the graduates and their University, complete with spraying a bottle of champagne. “May this be only the start of your many years of happiness.”

Saturday’s Convocation ceremony

On Saturday, Convocation will begin at 9 a.m. with a procession of undergraduate and graduate candidates into the Main Quadrangles. President Robert J. Zimmer will confer degrees to groups of students by academic program and degree type during the ceremony. The University is scheduled to award a total of 3,562 degrees.

This year’s Convocation speaker is Ka Yee C. Lee, professor in the Department of Chemistry, Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, James Franck Institute and the College. Lee chairs the faculty advisory committee for UChicago’s Francis and Rose Yuen Center in Hong Kong and serves as senior associate vice president for research.

For those unable to attend, the Class Day and Convocation ceremonies will be webcast at Follow the weekend’s events on social media using #uchicago2017.

Prof. Ka Yee Lee
Prof. Ka Yee Lee will be the Convocation speaker on June 10. (Photo by Robert Kozloff)

Information about the weekend’s events, as well as details on transportation, parking and accommodations can be found on the Convocation website. Convocation shuttles can be tracked at Attendees and community members are advised that there will be increased traffic and road closures during this time.

Tickets are not required for the main ceremonies, although they may be required for individual division and school ceremonies. General seating for Convocation will open at 7 a.m. and is available on a first-come basis.

Please note that all bags are subject to inspection before entering the Main Quadrangles. Items that may disrupt other guests from seeing or hearing the ceremony are not permitted inside the Quadrangles. 

Originally published on June 9, 2017.