Heavy Rains Fail to Dampen Commencement SpiritJune 23, 2009 | by Brendan Cosgrove
EVANSTON, Ill. --- The weather forecast for Northwestern’s 151st commencement ceremony looked gloomy early in the day. But fortunately the skies brightened, allowing for an abbreviated outdoor ceremony at Ryan Field. Internationally renowned musician Wynton Marsalis only had time to deliver the first and last pages of his prepared remarks but, together with his musical performance, he wowed the crowd.
As another storm threatened, Marsalis urged members of the class of 2009 to soak up the moment, reminding them of all they have accomplished in donning the cap and gown.
“This evening, graduates, you fulfill the promise of this University’s legacy, justify the optimism of your ancestors, reward the investment of your parents, deepen a kinship with your peers and provide inspiration for younger generations who will benefit from your example,” he said.
The crowd cheered loudest when Marsalis pulled out his trumpet and performed “The Second Line,” a traditional New Orleans tune that cues everyone to dance at the end of a concert. Professor Victor Goines, director of jazz studies, accompanied on saxophone.
Marsalis received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree. He was among seven individuals to receive an honorary degree.
Patrick G. Ryan, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and President Henry S. Bienen presided over commencement for the final time. Both are stepping down from their positions after 14 years at the helm of the University.
Ryan and Bienen were awarded Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Four others received honorary Doctor of Science degrees. They were Professor Jeanne Brooks-Gunn of Columbia University, Norwegian-American entrepreneur and philanthropist Fred Kavli, Professor H. Eugene Stanley of Boston University and Professor Lonnie G. Thompson of The Ohio State University.