The Johns Hopkins Gazette: June 7, 1999
June 7, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 37


Commencement 1999

With fanfare and sunny skies, 123rd academic year comes to a close

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

They posed them in caps. They posed them in hats. They posed them amid the throngs. They posed them by the Nichols House pond. It seemed everywhere you went, another roll of film was being spent.

The camera-wielding crowd was in full picture-taking force at the university's 123rd commencement ceremonies, held at the Homewood campus on May 27.

The day, which began with a chill in the air, turned into a glorious warm and bright affair that pleased the thousands of family members and friends of the class of 1999.

University president William R. Brody, as is his custom, addressed the graduates gathered for the morning's university-wide commencement ceremony. Brody in his address spoke of "Flo's five rules," which had been gleaned by Jerry Schnydman, executive assistant to the president and secretary of the board of trustees, from his mother, Florence. Said Flo: Good manners never go out of style. Never go to someone's house empty-handed. You can't buy a good name; you earn it. Give respect, get respect. And bring home a winner.

The rules, Brody said, were a common-sense guide to life, and he urged the graduates sometimes to look beyond what they have learned in labs and in textbooks and seek out common-sense solutions.

Quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes, Brody said, "Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for your upper chamber, so long as you have common sense on the ground floor."

The diploma ceremony for the university's doctoral students was touched by a bittersweet moment when the parents of Swaminathan Jayaraman were greeted with a round of stirring applause as they walked on stage to accept their late son's diploma. Jayaraman, who would have received his doctor of philosophy degree, was one of three School of Engineering graduate students killed in a car crash last November.

The appearance of Jayaraman's parents, who had flown here from India to attend the ceremony, was perhaps a reminder to graduates of the important role their parents or guardians had played in guiding them this far.

In fact, many students gave thanks to those who have supported them during their years at Hopkins. Tina Walker, a psychology major in the School of Arts and Sciences, said after the ceremony that she owes her success at the university to the support of her mother, Fumiko.

Tina Walker with her mother, Fumiko, who brought Tina's lei from their native Hawaii.

Walker, a native of Hawaii who wore a lei that her mother had brought from home, said it had been difficult to leave her single mother behind and to move so far away.

"It was hard at first. I was really homesick. I really wanted to go back to my home, but she wouldn't let me. She said, 'Just stay for one more semester.' And sure enough, I ended up staying," Walker said. "She always pushed education and told me what a great opportunity this was to come study here."

Walker said her diploma represents everything she had gone through to reach this point.

"I came through this knowing more about myself," Walker added.

The parents of the graduates seemed to be enjoying the day as much as, if not more than, their children. Many of them cheered and shouted vociferously, often rising up out of their seats as their children's names were called out.

"This is fun. It's really exciting," said Alex Thomas, whose daughter Monica was graduating from the School of Arts and Sciences. "I see all those kids and all that potential. That is what I enjoy."

Thomas then scanned the crowd of adults, adding, "The other thing is that for most parents we are reliving our own graduation."

The afternoon diploma ceremony for the schools of Engineering and Arts and Sciences began with an impromptu game of follow-the-bouncing-ball as three inflated beach balls mysteriously appeared and were knocked around by the seated graduates.

During the ceremony, Sonal Agarwal, president of the class of 1999, quoted a popular children's book author, the late Shel Silverstein. His story of "what if's" brought to mind questions graduates might have asked themselves when they first arrived at Hopkins--questions like "What if I don't make any friends?" or "What if I do poorly in my classes?" And now those same graduates might be asking themselves, "What if I don't find a job?" and "What if I don't recognize my opportunities?"

"Take risks," Agarwal said. "We will never know unless we challenge ourselves."

Agarwal's speech was followed by an address from Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, spoke to the graduates about the duty of public service.

"I believe it is every American's duty to contribute something to the common good," McCain said. "You don't have to wear a uniform or go to war to be a patriot."

He also encouraged the graduates to "wage war against cynicism," a growing public sentiment, he said, that both parties have fueled.

"It is we who have squandered the public trust. We, who have, time and again, in full public view, placed our personal or partisan interests before the national interest, earning the public's contempt with our poll-driven policies, our phony posturing, the lies we call spin and the damage control we substitute for progress," McCain said.

McCain then called for a "new breed" of politicians.

"Who are the leaders of this new patriotic challenge? You are," McCain said. "And what are the means you must use to defeat cynicism? Your good character put to the service of a cause greater than self-interest."

After the ceremony the graduates craned their necks and sorted through the masses to find their loved ones. Many mentioned how relieved they were now that school was finished, although for many, graduate school looms on the horizon.

Neeraj Gupta, a history of science major who will be attending Oxford in the fall, said it took a lot of perseverance to get through his four years at Hopkins.

"I just stuck with it and didn't really sway from my course," said an excited Gupta, who had just unrolled his diploma for his parents to look at. "And right now, it feels really good." The full text of President Brody's speech can be found at speech/comm99.html. McCain's is at

Commencement Photos

Honorary degree recipient James Van Allen is applauded by President William R. Brody.

Medicine dean Edward Miller, Nursing dean Sue Donaldson and James Clark, an honorary degree recipient, visit before commencement in Gilman Hall's Hutzler Reading Room.

In the robing room before receiving their honorary degrees are, from the left, the Rev. Clyde Shallenberger, James A. Van Allen, A. James Clark, Finn M.W. Caspersen and Mary Ellen Avery.

Jen Markarian's cap sends a word of appreciation to her longtime supporters.

Family and friends get the best camera view as degrees are conferred on the stage.

Sen. John McCain, who spoke at the undergraduate ceremony for Arts and Sciences and Engineering, chats with President William R. Brody and student council president Zachary Pack.

Sherry Johnson and her family.

New graduate Yonadav Kushner with his family.

Anirudh Kirtane and his family.

Susan Boswell, chief marshal and dean of students, leads a processional to the same event.

Bouncing beach balls grab the attention of seated students while the rest of their classmates enter the tent for the afternoon's undergraduate diploma ceremony for the schools of Arts and Sciences and of Engineering.

Ralph Johnson, director of Multicultural Student Affairs, gets his hood adjusted.