Commencement marks new beginning for more than 3,100 graduates

Wrighton: ‘Class of 2019 represents a great hope to address the problems we face in the world’

Shot of Brookings Hall on Commencement
More than 3,100 undergraduate, graduate and professional students will receive degrees during Washington University’s 158th Commencement ceremony Friday, May 17, in Brookings Quadrangle. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

Just as the Brookings Hall archway serves as a gateway to Washington University in St. Louis, the degrees that the more than 3,100 undergraduate, graduate and professional students receive today will provide a gateway to a bright future.

Washington University’s 158th Commencement ceremony begins at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle, where more than 12,000 family, friends, professors, staff, administrators and trustees will gather to recognize the achievements of the Class of 2019.

Michael R. Bloomberg, 108th mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, will deliver the Commencement address.

Just as Commencement marks a new beginning for graduating students, this year’s ceremony also marks a new chapter for Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, who will preside over his last Commencement ceremony and deliver his last address to the graduates. His tenure concludes May 31 after 24 years at the helm.

Mark S. Wrighton
This year’s ceremony marks a new beginning for Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton as he will preside over his last Commencement ceremony and deliver his last address to the graduates. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

“Every Commencement is special,”  Wrighton said. “It is a time of great achievement for our outstanding students — a time to celebrate their accomplishments and anticipate their contributions to the world. It has been a privilege to serve as chancellor, and I feel the Class of 2019 represents a great hope to address the problems we face in the world.”

The 3,162 candidates at Washington University’s Commencement will receive 3,305 degrees, of which 1,570 are bachelor’s degrees; 1,150 are master’s; 575 are doctoral and professional degrees, and 10 are associate’s.

Some of the graduating students have been showcased through stories, images and videos. Visit 2019 Class Acts to see a sampling of undergraduate, graduate and professional students who are committed to diversity, global engagement, innovation and entrepreneurship, human health and sustainability.

Speaker, honorary degree recipients

Bloomberg, an entrepreneur who will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree, was a three-term mayor of New York City whose innovations in government and philanthropy have made him a global leader on climate change, public health, education and other critical issues facing America and the world.

Michael R. Bloomberg

Bloomberg was elected mayor just weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and under his leadership, New York City rebounded faster and stronger than expected. His administration raised high school graduation rates by 40 percent, cut crime by a third and reduced the city’s carbon footprint by 14 percent. His economic policies, which supported entrepreneurs, small businesses and emerging industries such as tech and bioscience, helped to create a record 400,000 new jobs. His administration invested more than $3 billion in the arts and in cultural organizations, making New York City the largest funder of the arts in the country.

After leaving City Hall, he resumed leadership of Bloomberg LP, the information technology startup he launched in 1981 that revolutionized the investment industry and leveled the playing field for smaller firms. The company has grown from a one-room office into a global organization that employs nearly 20,000 people at 176 locations in 120 countries.

Committed to philanthropy, he has given away $6.4 billion through his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies.

As the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy for climate action, he is charged with galvanizing the efforts of governments, businesses and civil society to fight climate change. He is also the World Health Organization’s global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases, and his foundation works on lifesaving initiatives to improve maternal and reproductive health, increase global road safety, prevent drowning deaths and more

For more on Bloomberg, visit the Washington University Source.

Honorary degrees also will be awarded to:

  • Carol B. Bauer, a longtime Washington University benefactor, steadfast volunteer, chaplain and former teacher, doctor of humane letters;
  • George P. Bauer, a dedicated alumnus and emeritus trustee of Washington University, philanthropist, financier and head of GPB Group Ltd., doctor of humane letters;
  • Theresa A. Carrington, founder of the Blessing Basket Project, now known as Ten by Three, who discovered a formula that sustainably ends poverty and has been successfully replicated in eight developing nations, doctor of humanities;
  • Wayne Fields, the Lynne Cooper Harvey Chair Emeritus in English and professor of English at Washington University, renowned author and expert on American presidential rhetoric and political argument, doctor of humane letters;
  • Joseph E. Madison, a dedicated Arts & Sciences alumnus, groundbreaking radio personality and civil rights activist, doctor of laws; and
  • Charles M. Rice III, the Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Chair in Virology at The Rockefeller University, who developed a lifesaving therapy for hepatitis C virus infection, doctor of science.

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

Larry J. Shapiro, MD, honorary grand marshal

Larry J. Shapiro

Also leading the procession into the Quad will be the honorary grand marshal, Larry J. Shapiro, MD, dean emeritus of Washington University School of Medicine and since 2017, CEO of University Health Partners of Hawaii, the faculty practice at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Shapiro has deep ties to the university. He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Washington University and completed his residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital before embarking on a stellar medical career that ultimately brought him back to the Medical Campus.

A beloved administrator, pediatrician, genetics researcher and mentor, Shapiro served as executive vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine from 2003 to 2015. Under his leadership, the medical school greatly expanded its clinical programs, recruited outstanding faculty and students, and strengthened the research enterprise.

With Shapiro at the helm, the School of Medicine also consistently remained a top 10 medical school, according to annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report.

Shapiro was very proud of the school’s role in the first sequencing of a cancer genome in a human, as well as the institution’s leadership in imaging science, fundamental immunology, translational science and in understanding the root causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

He has been lauded for his leadership in research and medical education, as well as for his efforts to build bridges between the Medical and Danforth campuses, particularly with the establishment of the Institute for Public Health; for enhancing the school’s relationship with BJC HealthCare; and for advocating for diversity and gender equality at the medical school.

Traditions continue

Approximately 100 alumni from the Class of 1969, celebrating their 50th reunion, will march in the opening procession.

For the 39th 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.

Tyler A. Smith, a candidate for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the McKelvey School of Engineering, will sing “America the Beautiful” to open the ceremony.

Michelle A. Schrier, a candidate for a bachelor’s in music from the College of Arts & Sciences, will conclude the ceremony by singing the “Alma Mater.”

Joey Vettiankal, president of the senior class, will deliver the undergraduate student Commencement greeting. Vettiankal, from Henderson, Ky., is a candidate for a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Alexandra Keane, AB ’15, a candidate for a doctor of medicine from the School of Medicine, was selected to give the graduate student address. A native of Leawood, Kan., Keane will continue her training as a resident at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

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 2019.

Chancellor-elect Andrew D. Martin also will deliver remarks.

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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