Our NYU: May 2022
A Note from President Hamilton
It was phenomenal.
There are few days to which I look forward more than Commencement Day. This year I was even more excited than usual: after two-plus years of hardships and quarantines and physical distancing, we would be together and in person in Yankee Stadium for the first time since May 2019. And we would be celebrating not just this year’s graduating class but the Classes of 2020 and 2021, whose Commencements were postponed because of COVID-19 and whom we were thrilled to welcome back—our first “doubleheader” at Yankee Stadium.
The day didn’t disappoint. There was glorious weather and a wonderful, positive energy in the stadium at both ceremonies.
The day had its bittersweet qualities, of course. After years learning together in one another’s company, graduation brings not only joy and pride, but the sadness of departure, too, which is lightened by our faith in all that our graduates will go on to accomplish.
Commencement is a big day for everyone—the graduates, the faculty, the parents and loved ones and guests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a great deal goes into making Commencement Day as momentous in appearance as it is in our hearts.
In some ways, planning begins years in advance when the Yankees work with Major League Baseball (MLB) to ensure that the team is scheduled to be out of town on future Commencement Days. And shortly after each year’s Commencement is over, NYU’s Office of University Events begins planning in earnest for the following year.
More than 11,000 caps and gowns for different degrees in different fields of study have to be ordered. The timing of the 19 school ceremonies and the graduations in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai has to be carefully coordinated with the All-University Commencement. We apply for special permits from the city to enable us to hold Grad Alley in and around Washington Square.
As we get closer to Commencement, the registrar, working with the schools, must verify the eligibility of more than 19,000 students to graduate. We work with the Empire State Building to illuminate that landmark skyscraper in violet the night before Commencement—and this year there were special lighting effects, too. We recruit and train hundreds of volunteers from among staff and administrators to serve as marshals and greeters, and in other important roles. A small army of contractors sets up the Grad Alley tents, concessions, and attractions; designs and builds a stage across Yankee Stadium’s ball field; lays cable for lighting, audio, and video; creates and uploads video for the various displays; and hoists NYU flags in place of the MLB team flags that normally fly atop the stadium.
We pull from storage, inspect, and mend all of our school banners. Our singers, trumpeters, bagpipers, and drummers practice their pieces amid the stadium’s echoing acoustics. We polish and test the antique silver Tiffany & Co. NYU torch that fills such an important symbolic role during the ceremony. And we write, produce, and perform a pre-Commencement show featuring some of the standout talents of the class that precedes the start of the ceremony. And that advanced planning matters, because when we confront the inevitable annual glitches—this year it involved some ticketing as well as the delivery of caps and gowns—we’re well positioned to solve it.
All this we do—all the preparation, all the pageantry, all the pomp—to honor our graduates, to celebrate their milestone achievement, and to welcome their families, loved ones, and guests.
Small wonder that I have missed it so, and small wonder that I was so thrilled to be back in Yankee Stadium last Wednesday with the Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 and their families, loved ones, and guests.
To all of you, I offer my hopes that the semester finished up well, and my best wishes for a wonderful—and I hope relaxing—summer.
To all of those who go to such great efforts to make Commencement special for our graduates and their guests: thank you.
And, especially, to our graduates: congratulations, we are so proud of you; you leave with our best wishes and our highest hopes for your futures.
It takes a small village and a lot of logistics to pull off a smooth Commencement season! Here’s a look at some of the details that go into the momentous celebrations.
The Office of University Events prepares for Commencement year-round and books the date several years in advance. The stage management crew (above) includes just a few of the people, in addition to hundreds of volunteers, who make the day a reality for our proud graduates.
We had glorious weather and a winning doubleheader at Yankee Stadium!
The procession—one of the only times you’ll see gowns and mortarboards, not pinstripes and baseball caps, on the Yankee Stadium warning track.
The illustrious NYU Pipes and Drums, a longstanding tradition at Commencement, were a wonderful sight (and sound!).
It was a thrill to meet Taylor Swift, who, along with Susan Hockfield, neuroscientist and president emerita at MIT, and Félix Matos Rodriguez, the chancellor of the City University of New York, was among our esteemed honorary degree recipients. The newly minted Dr. Swift spoke to the Class of ’22 in her authentic, deeply personal address.
I couldn’t have been more pleased to welcome disability rights activist Judith Heumann, an honorary degree recipient, along with historian, writer, and scholar Jill Lepore, and educator and curator Lonnie Bunch III, who were also honored during the evening ceremony. Judy gave an inspirational, moving speech with a call to action for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 to use their creativity, power, and diverse voices to make an impact.
The Empire State Building was lit up in violet Tuesday evening to honor our graduates, and this year the building had special lighting effects to mark the extra special event. Congratulations, graduates!