By Mary Abowd | Photos by Dan Dry, Robert Kozloff, and Andrew Nelles
Rainy skies cleared seemingly on cue as members of the University of Chicago community gathered Saturday, June 13, for the University’s 523rd Convocation.
Soft morning light fell upon the nearly 3,000 graduates as they processed across the Main Quadrangle to the wail of bagpipes and occasional cheers rising from the crowd of parents, friends, and colleagues.
Shulamit Ran, the Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor of Music, warmly greeted the crowd with her Convocation address, titled “Why We Make Art.” Ran noted the fulfillment the arts can bring to all, regardless of background or status, increasing one’s sense of “having rather than having not.”
“Being surrounded by fine arts … allows us to luxuriate not in material riches, but in the comfort of the knowledge that to rise above the material is a privilege of which we can partake,” Ran said.
Winner of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in composition and a composer of symphonic music, opera, chamber, and solo works who began creating music at age 7, Ran encouraged students to find “joy in the making,” whatever their discipline. “If we can engage in the pursuit of the beautiful,” she added, “then we have wealth of the kind that sustains our spirit and uplifts our souls.”
Nearly 3,000 students participated in the ceremony, during which President Robert J. Zimmer conferred degrees to groups of candidates by degree type and academic program. In all, 1,228 undergraduate and 2,044 graduate degrees were conferred.
“I know that as graduates of this university in the coming years you will be called upon to act, to speak and to lead, and like so many University of Chicago graduates who have come before you, you will approach this challenge of leadership empowered by your University of Chicago education,” Zimmer said. “The power of analysis and ideas that you have experienced here and that are now your own will serve you wherever your path takes you and whatever challenges you confront.”
At ceremonies for the divisions and schools, faculty and deans recognized the degree candidates individually and presented them with diplomas or hoods.
The College diploma ceremony, also held on the Main Quadrangle, featured student speakers Natalya Samee, Andrew Minjae Kim, and Miranda Nicole Cherkas. Each spoke about their fondness for their UChicago experiences.
Samee likened her years in the College to a television series, with a premiere, a chain of seasons, and a finale. Each of her classmates played their own lead role, Samee said: “I stand here today in front of a sea of protagonists.” She encouraged them to look back on four years, cherishing their changes and growth.
“Go back to the episode where somebody challenged your worldview for the first time, the way your jaw dropped,” she said. “You’ve evolved.”
As the Class of 2015 ends their time together, Samee added, their real creative potential has only just begun. “Just as a season determines the spinoff, these four years determine who you will be for the next 40.”
Zimmer conferred four honorary degrees at the main Convocation ceremony to those who have made exceptional contributions in their fields: glaciologist Richard B. Alley, cancer researcher Titia de Lange, economics professor Andreu Mas-Colell, and analytic number theorist Peter Sarnak.
The Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Creative and Performing Arts was presented to Ashley Wheater, artistic director of The Joffrey Ballet.
During the College diploma ceremony, faculty members and graduate students were honored for their excellence in teaching; those honors included the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring, and the Wayne C. Booth Graduate Student Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
Originally published on June 13, 2015.