The Brown University community convened for the 242nd Commencement on Sunday May 30, 2010. I was very impressed by the demeanor of President Ruth J. Simmons, who managed great dignity without appearing pompous.
Once everyone was settled, the program began with Senior Orations by Tatiana Gellein who spoke about Jonah and the whale, overcoming fears, and achieving dreams, who was followed by Tan Nguyen who spoke about the Ropewalker and learning how to fall gracefully, balance, his advisor who responded, "I'm glad to hear you know what you want. I think you are going in the right direction," every time he changed his course, and the liberation and responsiblity of the Brown Curriculum.
Honorary Degrees were presented to Gordon Wood, Romila Tharpar, David Rohde, Cecile Richards, Shahrnush Parsipur, Nelson Mandela, and Morgan Freeman. During the presentation of the Mandela degree, I told the young African-American woman sitting next to me that we had occupied University Hall in the 70s with a sit-down to demand that Brown divest of its holdings in South African Krugerands. I don't think she had a clue as to what I was saying. Morgan Freeman gave a witty speech, calling the graduates "miscreants" and insinuating relations with President Simmons but then saying they met in public. I happened to be near the Van Wickle Gates when Mr. Freeman was leaving after the ceremony.