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Secrets from the Keeper of the NYU Torch

Tents? Tassels? The freshly washed hair of the graduating class? John DeSantis, senior director of technical services in NYU's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, is the guy who makes sure none of those things catch fire each year at Commencement.

For 35 years, he's been the keeper of the NYU torch—the person who coaches the lucky student who gets to carry it and who makes sure its yellow flame shines brightly on the big day. Made by Tiffany, the torch was a gift to NYU in 1911, but was retired from use in 1920s—that is, until the 1970s, when DeSantis was called upon to help revive the tradition. He's been keeping watch over the University's precious symbol ever since.

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