Sinister gray clouds hovered above the Homewood campus early on May 25 and threatened to drench the thousands gathered to participate in and witness the close of the university's 124th academic year.
Luckily for all, these billowy bullies were just show.
Beautiful, warm and dry weather prevailed for a pair of jubilant and lighthearted commencement ceremonies--the university-wide event held in the morning and the undergraduate diploma ceremony in the afternoon.
University president William R. Brody, as is his custom, addressed the graduates gathered for the university-wide ceremony. Brody's message was that in an age of increasing electronic connectedness, the popular marketing phrase "reach out and touch someone" has to take on a more literal meaning. He urged the graduates to use their Hopkins education for the greater good and not just for personal gain.
"I have no doubt you will be wired, you will be plugged in, you will be Internet accessible at almost every waking moment. But will you be truly connected?" Brody said. "In the years ahead, there will be more fires like the one at Los Alamos, more hurricanes and floods and other natural disasters. But will there continue to be strangers there the next day, offering a sandwich, and a cup of coffee, and, most important, the touch of another human hand?"
The conferring of degrees was a proud moment not only for the graduates but for their parents and other loved ones, people who those on stage and in the crowd said are owed a large debt of thanks.
To borrow the wry words of the undergraduate diploma ceremony speaker George Tenet, director of U.S. Central Intelligence, "If any of you think you earned a Hopkins ticket to success all by your good-looking selves, holed up on D-level in the MSE, you are either delusional, very lonely, or both."
Shay Thomas, who received a degree from the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, said the highlight of her day was that so many of her family--some of whom traveled thousands of miles--could attend the ceremony.
"I feel really blessed. It was important for me to have them be here," Thomas said. "This is a shared event and a shared diploma."
Joseph Yoon, an economics major in the School of Arts and Sciences, said he was "relieved and happy" to have made it through his four years and knows he couldn't have done it by himself.
"I agree with what Mr. Tenet said, that we are all very gifted but also very fortunate to have been given this opportunity by our parents to study here," Yoon said.
In his address, Tenet, who oversees the Central Intelligence Agency, assigned the graduates a mission to "find a way to serve your community, your country and the world," whether it be a career in public service or by contributing time and money to a worthy cause.
"As human beings, as Americans and as citizens of this world, our great hope and responsibility is to use the will and the knowledge and the power we do have to try to shape the future for the better," Tenet said. "As new graduates, I hope that you feel this challenge in a special way."
Following the ceremony, Garfield Grimmett, a public health major in the School of Arts and Sciences, was one of several graduates who said what they will miss most is the company of his fellow students.
"Hopkins put me in a position to meet all kinds of different people, and learn of all kinds of different philosophies and ways of life," said Grimmett, a native of Hawaii who will be attending Cornell Law School in the fall. "I wouldn't have had that chance if I stayed at home."
Andrea Katz, a biology major in the School of Arts and Sciences, said although she is leaving Hopkins, she hopes to continue as many of the "phenomenal" relationships she has begun with both students and professors as she can.
"The people were the best part of going to Hopkins for me. It was a very difficult four years, a very hard university," said Katz, who graduated with honors. "I had some great professors, some who went well out of their way and above and beyond to help me. You get a lot of personal attention here."
There are, however, some things the graduates won't miss.
"No more all-night cram sessions for tests," said Grimmett, now raising his voice. "No, I certainly won't miss those."
The full text of President Brody's speech can be found at www.jhu.edu/news_info/news/commence00/wrbtalk.html.
Tenet's is at www.jhu.edu/news_info/news/commence00/tenet.html.
A photo album and slide show of the ceremonies is available at http://www.jhu.edu/news_info/news/commence00.