Commencement: time to celebrate the Class of 2018

More than 3,100 to graduate May 18 in Brookings Quadrangle

Graduates walking into Quad
More than 3,100 undergraduate, graduate and professional students will receive degrees during Washington University’s 157th Commencement ceremony Friday, May 18, in Brookings Quadrangle. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

By definition, a commencement ceremony marks the official beginning of a new phase of life for graduating students. Some are headed to new jobs or to advanced programs of study. Some will take time to travel abroad or do community service. Some will take time to unwind and contemplate their futures.

As the more than 3,100 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree candidates at Washington University in St. Louis are ready to begin a new chapter, the university will first recognize their achievements during its 157th Commencement this morning.

The graduating students will be surrounded in Brookings Quadrangle by more than 12,000 family and friends, as well as university professors, staff, administrators, trustees and alumni from the Class of 1968.

They will hear from inspiring speakers, including Anne-Marie Slaughter, a renowned foreign policy expert, scholar and former top State Department official, who will talk about American renewal and how the Class of 2018 will be at the heart of that process.

In addition to Slaughter, other speakers include Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, the senior class president and a graduate student speaker.

The 3,150 candidates at Washington University’s Commencement will receive 3,319 degrees, of which 1,587 are undergraduate; 1,205 are master’s; and two are associate’s in arts.

There are 525 doctoral and professional degree candidates, including 114 for the doctor of philosophy degree and one for the doctor of liberal arts degree from the Graduate School; two for the doctor of business administration degree from Olin Business School; 197 for the juris doctoris degree and one for the juris scientiae doctoris degree from the School of Law; and 210 for degrees from the School of Medicine.

Some of the graduating students have been showcased through stories, images and videos throughout the year. Visit 2018 Class Acts to see a sampling of our undergraduate, graduate and professional students who are changing the world through research, service and innovation.

Commencement will take place in Brookings Quadrangle rain or shine. However, if threatening weather endangers safety, the severe weather plan will be activated by 7 a.m.

Under the plan, the universitywide Commencement ceremony in Brookings Quadrangle will be canceled. If that happens, a ceremony for undergraduates only will be held starting at 8:30 a.m. in the Athletic Complex Field House.

The ceremonies for all graduate and professional degree candidates will be held at their schools’ individual recognition ceremonies.

If the plan is activated, it will be announced on the university’s homepage,, in an email to the graduating students and on social media.

Streaming video of the ceremony will be broadcast on the Commencement website. A live televised broadcast of the ceremony also can be viewed at the following locations: Brown Hall, Room 100; Busch Hall, Room 100; Danforth University Center, Tisch Commons; and Mallinckrodt Center, Edison Theatre. All rooms are wheelchair accessible.

Speaker, honorary degree recipients

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Slaughter, known for writing a widely read article that sparked a national debate around women’s work-life balance, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Slaughter is president and CEO of New America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic platform dedicated to renewing America in an age of rapid technological and social change.

She is also the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, where she has been on the faculty since 2002.

From 2009-11, she served as the first female director of policy planning for the State Department, reporting directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was a position she referred to as her “dream job.”

When she accepted the position, knowing she would need to be away from her husband and two young boys during the week, she was confident she could juggle the demands of her position in Washington with the responsibilities of her family in Princeton, N.J.

But then life intervened, and parenting needs led her to leave the State Department after her initial two-year commitment and return to an academic career that gave her more family time.

The reactions to her choice to leave Washington because of her children led her to question the feminist narrative she grew up with. Her subsequent 2012 article for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” quickly became the most-read article in the magazine’s history and sparked intense national debate on the continued obstacles to full male-female equality.

She followed up the article with “Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family,” which was named one of the best books of 2015 by The Washington Post, The Economist and National Public Radio.

For more on Slaughter, visit the Washington University Source.

Honorary degrees also will be awarded to:

  • Eric D. Green, MD, PhD, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who has helped to shape the field of genomics and its application to medicine, doctor of science;
  • Chris Krehmeyer, president and CEO of St. Louis-based Beyond Housing, where he works to build and support thriving communities by helping provide affordable housing and create economic development, doctor of humane letters;
  • Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, the nation’s largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to African-American students, doctor of humane letters; and
  • Francis G. Slay, St. Louis’ longest-serving mayor who, during his 16-year term, led a successful downtown and city neighborhood revival, doctor of humane letters.

Commencement will begin with the traditional academic procession into the Quad, which will be led by grand marshal John N. Drobak, the George Alexander Madill Professor of Real Property & Equity Jurisprudence in the School of Law and professor of economics in Arts & Sciences, who is chair of the Commencement Committee.

Edward S. Macias, honorary grand marshal

Edward S. Macias

Also leading the procession into the Quad will be the honorary grand marshal, Edward S. Macias, provost emeritus and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Arts & Sciences.

For nearly 50 years, Macias’ professional life has been focused on Washington University, where he has served in many key leadership roles, including 25 years as provost.

Macias joined the Arts & Sciences faculty in 1970 as an assistant professor of chemistry and became a full professor in 1984. In the 1980s, he added administrative roles to his full-time teaching and research, serving as director of the Summer School and chair of the Department of Chemistry.

The author of two books and more than 90 articles, his research interests include environmental and nuclear chemistry, focusing on the chemistry and physics of atmospheric particles and the effect of these particles on haze and air pollution.

He pursued seminal research, including a study demonstrating that the atmospheric haze obscuring the Grand Canyon was made up of pollutants from Los Angeles.

In 1988, Macias was named provost, a position he held until 2013. In 1995, he was named executive vice chancellor and dean of Arts & Sciences.

In his work as provost, he partnered closely with the seven school deans to promote diversity and to provide leadership in curriculum, budget and capital project development.

Macias was especially involved in cross-school collaborations, and he led the university on initiatives with online education. He worked closely with senior administrators, bringing an academic voice to central decision-making and strategic-planning processes.

During his tenure as dean, Arts & Sciences advanced to the first tier of the nation’s best undergraduate and graduate liberal arts programs.

Traditions continue

Approximately 100 alumni from the Class of 1968, celebrating their 50th reunion, will march in the opening procession.

For the 38th consecutive Commencement, the program will begin with music by The Mighty Mississippi Concert Band of St. Louis, under the direction of Dan Presgrave, retired music director/conductor of the Washington University Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble.

Nathan T. Ruggles, who earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1999 and a master’s in music in 2003 from Arts & Sciences, will sing “America the Beautiful” to open the ceremony. Ruggles is a teacher of applied music in the Department of Music.

Dereck W. Basinger, a candidate for a master’s in classics from Arts & Sciences, will conclude the ceremony by singing the “Alma Mater.”

William Feng, president of the senior class, will deliver the undergraduate student Commencement greeting. Feng, from Portland, Ore., is a candidate for a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with an economics and strategy major, from Olin Business School.

Donald Gerke, a candidate for a doctorate in social work from the Brown School, was selected to give the graduate student address. He is from Missoula, Mont.

The deans of each of the schools and Provost Holden Thorp will assist Wrighton in the conferral of academic degrees. After the conferral of degrees, Wrighton will deliver his message to the Class of 2018.

Before or after the ceremony, individual schools will hold recognition and award ceremonies, diploma distribution and receptions. Visit the Commencement website for locations.

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