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Commencement and Academic Ceremonies Committee

FUNCTION: To advise the Faculty Council, the president, and academic deans on policy matters, including selection of speakers, in planning graduation, Honors Day, and other formal academic ceremonies. (

The Committee on Commencement and Academic Ceremonies met twice during the academic year to discuss the organization and planning of formal academic ceremonies, including Honors Day.

The chair conducted a poll on committee members’ preferences for potential candidates for 2006 University-wide commencement speaker. Recommendations were forwarded to the office of President Faulkner who had requested these suggestions. Ten names were submitted based on a total of thirty-eight potential candidates, including two individuals not on the master list of existing nominations (Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Roy Spence, president of GSD&M).  Seventy-five percent of the committee participated in the poll, indicating Maya Angelou as the top choice. Other names that received a number of votes equal to the number of other candidates ranked below her were: Tony Garza, Alan Greenspan, Oprah Winfrey, and Lance Armstrong.

At the spring committee meeting, several issues were discussed:
1. Honors Day. The fifty-eighth annual Honors Day recognizing College Scholars and Distinguished College Scholars will be held on April 8, 2006. Ms. Duy-Loan Le, a Young Texas Ex and Outstanding Young Graduate of the College of Engineering, will present the convocation address. This year, 4,785 students qualified for College Scholar honors and 1,199 were named Distinguished College Scholars. Two University-wide ceremonies are held to accommodate the large number of student honorees and their guests who attend annually. Colleges and schools also host special activities to recognize their scholars. 

2. Commencement.
a. University-wide Ceremony. The United States Ambassador to Mexico, Antonio O. Garza, Jr., was the commencement speaker. Among the special considerations this year will be:
  • Continuation of efforts to increase faculty participation to 15% or 329.
  • Development of ceremonial elements for the new Jackson School of Geosciences (e.g., mace, dean's medallion of office, banners, stoles).
  • Increase in number of staff volunteers.
  • Addition of new ceremonies for the Jackson School and the Dallas/Mexico City MBA program.
  • Enhanced service to guests with disabilities.
  • Post May 2006, consider contracting with photo vendor to improve services and reduce costs to students.
b. Speaker suggestions for 2007. Several suggestions were offered to be added to the cumulative list maintained by the Office of Relationship Management and University Events. It was suggested that speakers be assessed based on their style and their abilities to engage and inspire students and to serve as role models.
  • First Lady Laura Bush because of her current role and status as a UT alumna
  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton based on his current work on issues of nutrition, HIV disease, health care via non-government organizations
  • Senator Hillary Clinton because of her public role and future in public life
  • (person nominated by Juan Gonzalez) with Monterry Tecnológico
c. Student input. Ashley Austin, a student member of the committee, sent suggestions by email because she was unable to attend (See memo below).

Memo from Ashley Austin

From: Ashley Austin
To: Jacqueline Angel
Subject: Commencement and Academic Ceremonies Committee- Meeting Reminder
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 18:26:17 -0600

Dr. Angel,

Here are my thoughts on Commencement. I have rolled my answers to both questions into one answer. Please let me know if you have any questions.

I do not have any suggestions for a specific speaker but I think the biggest concern for students is to have someone who is not boring, who remembers what it was like to be a student but can understand the differences between the students of yesterday and today and also who can offer advice that is relevant to student life. No one wants to sit and listen to someone talk about achieving goals and moving forward in life. I would like to see a speaker that could address many of the fears and anxieties students face during this supposedly happy time. I'm not saying that students are all unhappy and hate graduation; I'm just thinking that during this happy time many students feel very scared and uncertain about the future. It would be refreshing to hear a speaker that could address those fears but also give hope to the students that things will work out in the end.

As far as concerns, I don't know of any right off the top of my head. I would guess that the biggest ones would just be that commencement is entertaining and not a complete bore. Engaging students in the activities around them is the best suggestion I have for keeping student interest alive. If I hear of any concerns within the next few weeks, I will pass the information along to you.


Jacqueline L. Angel, chair

  Updated 2006 August 29
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