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Commencement and Academic Ceremonies Committee

Committee Members: Jacqueline Angel (chair), Victor Arnold, Judith Jellison, Arthur Markman, Julie Sowa, Linda Reichl, Meggie Scholtz, Susan Clagett, John Graham, Ernest Hunter, Jerry Junkin, Susan Kessler, Doug Bolin.

Let me begin by thanking all members of the Committee on Commencement and Academic Ceremonies. The committee has met twice since the beginning of the academic year to discuss the organization and planning of academic ceremonies.

1. At the first meeting, outgoing University Marshal, Minette (Meme) Drumwright, reported on priorities during her tenure, including efforts to increase faculty participation in Commencement. Among the activities that resulted in over a 100% increase in faculty attendance (to 318 faculty) are the following:

Parking was provided in the San Antonio Garage with a free shuttle service to the reception in the McCombs School of Business.
Reception honoring faculty catered by the Campus Club was co-hosted by President Faulkner and Dean Gau prior to the ceremony.
A free regalia loan program was created by the University Co-op to make doctoral regalia available to faculty. Regalia were allocated to colleges based on percentage of faculty. In May 2003, forty-eight out of fifty sets were utilized. In December 2003, forty sets were used. Free regalia were requested by two faculty marshals for Honors Day 2004.
The faculty’s role in Commencement was enhanced and became a more visible ceremonial element in the program. The faculty procession was introduced and began from the Main Building, to the South Mall to form an honor guard for degree candidates.
Faculty seating was improved by elevating seating on the upper terrace, adjacent to the stage.
Faculty were introduced by deans and asked to stand with the degree candidates.

2. Discussion addressed concerns expressed by past December graduates who felt that their Commencement experience was less than that provided to students in May. Several enhancements were discussed and the group added other ideas. The following changes were implemented in December 2003 to make the fall graduations more meaningful and parallel to the spring ceremony:

Fall Commencement Web site was created.
E-mail communications were sent centrally to degree candidates.
Press release was developed to announce fall schedule of ceremonies.
Street banners were hung.
Tower lighting was modified to add “03” in Tower windows.

3. Committee members also offered suggestions for Commencement speakers. In recent weeks, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans, a UT graduate and Distinguished Alumnus, was announced as the speaker at the 121st Spring Commencement of The University of Texas at Austin.

On April 3, 2004, approximately 1600 undergraduates attended Honors Day ceremonies held in the Bass Concert Hall. Two central ceremonies are held to accommodate the large numbers of students and their guests who attended. At these ceremonies, honors students received honors cords donated by the University Co-op. Students with 4.0 grade point averages received commemorative medallions from their deans. At the central ceremony, Dr. Jacqueline Angel presided over her first ceremony as University Marshal. Outgoing University Marshal Meme Drumwright was recognized for her service from 2001-03. A number of college and school ceremonies were planned in conjunction with these activities.


1. At the second meeting on April 19 the committee discussed several logistical matters related to the University-wide Commencement. Major improvements for Commencement 2004 include expanded safety and security initiatives and organizational and support services for guests with disabilities. Judith Jellison, the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, Dean of Students Office, Physical Plant, and the Office of Relationship Management and University Events worked together to develop these plans. Plans are also underway to provide a map of accessible restrooms in the area surrounding the Main/South Malls. Approximately 30,000 guests are expected to attend the 121st Spring Commencement. Based on last year’s faculty attendance, more than 300 faculty members are anticipated to participate in the ceremony.

2. As described earlier, several measures are being taken to help foster faculty involvement. The University Co-op has established a free-loan regalia program for faculty attending the Saturday evening University-wide Commencement. In addition, a free shuttle and parking for faculty will be available. In addition, President Faulkner and Dean of the McCombs School of Business, George Gau, will host a pre-ceremony reception in honor of the faculty. Faculty will also receive special recognition at the ceremony. The president will announce new inductees to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers and Friar’s Society. Each dean will give formal recognition of their participating faculty members during the ceremony.

3. Members of the Faculty Council are encouraged to submit names of potential Commencement speakers to any member of the committee. The committee offered the following names: Renee Zellweger, Oprah Winfrey, Molly Ivins, Red McCombs, President Jimmy Carter, and Marsha Gay Harden, among others..

Jacqueline Angel, chair