A time for celebration and reflection

This week, many students from the Class of 2008 leave Washington University as doctors, lawyers, business people or artists. Others move on to pursue advanced degrees, to further their research in their chosen fields or to simply find their place in the world.

All depart knowing that their contribution — whether it be as momentous as a breakthrough discovery or as simple as an encouraging smile to an uncertain friend — has left a lasting mark on the University community.

It’s finally here! The 2,655 candidates who will receive 2,790 degrees hope to be as happy on May 16 as these three women were last year. The 147th Commencement begins at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton will confer degrees at the 147th Commencement ceremony, which begins at 8:30 a.m. May 16 in Brookings Quadrangle. The 2,655 candidates will receive 2,790 degrees, of which 1,507 are undergraduate and 1,283 are graduate and professional.

There are 544 doctoral candidates, comprising 111 for the doctor of philosophy degree from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, four for the doctor of science degree from the Graduate School of Engineering & Applied Science, 244 for the juris doctoris degree from the School of Law, two for the juris scientiae doctoris from the School of Law and 183 for degrees from the School of Medicine.

In the event of rain, Commencement still will take place in the Quad. If the weather turns violent, the ceremony for undergraduates will be moved to the Athletic Complex, and graduate and professional degrees will be bestowed at each respective school’s Commencement reception (see commencement week calendar).

Streaming video of the ceremony will be broadcast online at commencement.wustl.edu. The Web cast can be viewed in Room 110 of January Hall and in Rooms 100 (wheelchair accessible) and 118 of Brown Hall.

Chris Matthews — host of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC — will deliver the Commencement address.

Matthews also hosts “The Chris Matthews Show,” a syndicated weekly news program produced by NBC News, and is a regular commentator on NBC’s “Today” show. He will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters during the ceremony.

Matthews, the host of “Hardball” since 1997, is no stranger to the Washington University campus. He covered the 2004 presidential debates at WUSTL and was the keynote speaker for Founders Day that same year.

Matthews has distinguished himself as a broadcast journalist, newspaper bureau chief, presidential speechwriter and best-selling author.

Matthews worked for 15 years (1987-2002) as a print journalist. During that time, he was the Washington bureau chief for The San Francisco Examiner and a nationally syndicated columnist.

In 1997 and 1998, his digging into the National Archives produced The San Francisco Examiner’s series of scoops on the Nixon presidential tapes.

Before moving into journalism, Matthews worked in the White House for four years under Jimmy Carter as a presidential speechwriter and on the President’s Reorganization Project.

He also worked in the U.S. Senate on the staffs of Sen. Frank Moss (Utah) and Sen. Edmund Muskie (Maine) for five years and as the top aide to Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. for six years.

Matthews is the author of four best-selling books, including “Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game” (1988), which is required reading in many college-level political science courses.

A graduate of Holy Cross College, Matthews did graduate work in economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Also at Commencement, honorary degrees will be awarded to:

• Quincy Jones, composer, conductor, solo artist and record, film and television producer, doctor of humane letters;

• Lee Seng Tee, internationally recognized business executive, major philanthropist and patron of the arts, doctor of humane letters;

• Phyllis Schlafly, national leader of the conservative movement, author and editor, doctor of humane letters;

• Egon Schwarz, Ph.D., WUSTL’s Rosa May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, professor emeritus in German in Arts & Sciences and leading scholar of 19th- and 20th-century German literature, doctor of humane letters; and

• Jessie L. Ternberg, M.D., Ph.D., WUSTL professor emerita of pediatrics and of pediatric surgery, renowned researcher and pioneer of women in medicine, doctor of science.

Commencement will begin with the traditional academic procession into the Quad, which will be led by honorary grand marshal Carlos A. Perez, M.D., professor emeritus and former chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology.

During a 47-year career, Perez made an indelible mark on the field of radiation oncology, helping to set the norms for treating cancer of the cervix, prostate and breast.

He is known as a walking encyclopedia in his field, and his book, “Principles and Practice of Radiation Oncology,” is called “the bible” of his specialty.

Working with Marvin Carmel, M.D., Perez helped improve standard therapies for cervical cancer.

Perez also conducted investigations of lung cancer that defined best radiation doses that should be used and how much tissue should be exposed for the maximum benefit.

His research on breast cancer helped establish optimal protocols for combining radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery to fight the disease. He played an important role in the trend toward treating breast tumors with radiation and lumpectomy as an alternative to mastectomy.

Perez led the way in enhancing radiation therapy delivery. He researched brachytherapy, a technique that implants radioactive pellets into tumors, and was instrumental in making the University a world leader in developing 3-D treatment planning.

To encourage students to enter oncology, Perez’s division started a summer oncology program in the mid-1970s for medical students finishing their first year.

Throughout his career, Perez was a strong advocate of patient education. In 1977, he founded the Cancer Information Center at Washington University Medical Center to give cancer patients guidance and knowledge about their disease. It was the first resource center of its kind and has served as a model for similar facilities around the world.

Perez, who was raised in Medellin, Colombia, earned a bachelor’s degree in 1952 from the Liceo Universidad de Antioquia in Medellin and a medical degree in 1960 from the Universidad de Antioquia Medical School, also in Medellin.

He completed a radiology residency at WUSTL’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology and a radiation therapy fellowship at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Perez joined the faculty in 1964 as an instructor and became a professor in 1972. He was named director of the Radiation Oncology Center in 1976 and head of the Department of Radiation Oncology in 2001.

He served as department head until his retirement in 2004.

A productive researcher and a prolific writer, he published more than 350 scientific articles and contributed to more than 43 textbooks.

Perez is married to Susie Bradshaw Perez and has three children — Carlos S., Bernardo and Edward — and three grandchildren.

Also at Commencement, approximately 100 alumni from the Class of 1958, celebrating their 50th reunion, will march in the opening procession.

For the 28th consecutive Commencement, the program will begin with music by The Mighty Mississippi Concert Band of St. Louis, under the direction of Dan Presgrave, music director/conductor of the Washington University Symphony Orchestra, the Washington University Wind Ensemble and the St. Louis Wind Symphony.

Nathan Ruggles (B.M. ’99, M.M. ’03), teacher of applied music in Arts & Sciences, will sing “America the Beautiful.”

Karan Chopra, president of the senior class, will deliver the student Commencement greeting.

Conferral of academic degrees will follow, with the deans of each of the schools and Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences, assisting Wrighton.

After the conferral of degrees, Wrighton will deliver his message to the Class of 2008.

Courtney Dey, who will receive a master of music degree, will conclude the ceremony by singing the “Alma Mater.”

Afterward, the University’s schools will hold receptions for graduates and their guests.