Baltimore's gray skies turned a brilliant blue on
Thursday, when thousands of men and women marched onto
Homewood Field as Johns Hopkins students and left as
At the morning's universitywide commencement,
President William R. Brody conferred more than 6,000
degrees, certificates and diplomas on the candidates
presented by the eight academic divisions, and honorary
degrees were conferred upon Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg,
activist and Jewish scholar; Her Royal Highness Princess
Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, champion of education,
public health and human rights initiatives; and Edward
Witten, physicist, mathematician and Charles Simonyi
Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study.
In addition, M. Gordon "Reds" Wolman — a 1949
graduate and faculty member since 1958 — was honored
for his "extraordinary devotion to Johns Hopkins" and was
presented with the Milton S. Eisenhower Medal for
President Brody, in his
address, urged the assembled
graduates "to do well by doing good."
"When you get to be my age," he said, "you will find
yourself beginning to ask, Did my life make a difference?
That's the day of personal reckoning. And I think the only
way to face it is to consider, every day of your life, how
can I do something for somebody else? How can I give back
to others? It may be teaching, it may be becoming a doctor,
you may be successful in business — no matter what
your career path, there will always be opportunities to
give back. The chance will present itself to be giving of
your time, giving of your money — but mostly, to be
giving of yourselves, of your own heart and soul."
PHOTO BY HIPS / WILL KIRK and
Former Vice President Al Gore, the speaker at the
afternoon undergraduate diploma ceremony for the schools of
Arts and Sciences and Engineering, also encouraged the
students to focus on personal priorities such as their
loved ones and to give of themselves to important public
issues such as the environment and the political
Gore, showing off his finely honed comedic skills,
address by acknowledging the time of transition
the students were now facing. "I've had my share of
transition," he said. "I spent eight years flying on Air
Force Two. Now I have to take off my shoes to get on an
"I hope your transition goes more slowly," he said.
"I'm now a visiting professor, or VP for short — it's
a way of hanging on."
Something he personally cares about passionately is
the subject of the global environment, which, he said, is
tied to Johns Hopkins.
Gore then related the story of attending the Orioles'
opening day game on April 3, 1989. Leaving Memorial Stadium,
his son was hit by a car and taken to The Johns Hopkins
Hospital. "I lived at the hospital for more than a month,
and I immediately got to understand what this community is
all about. We will never forget the care, skill and love we
experienced," he said.
What he learned during those weeks, he said, was that
when the events on his calendar — "events with such
serious purpose" — were no longer there, he was able
to focus on priorities. For him that meant both personal
ones and "what we're really called on to do."
That is when he began his book Earth in the Balance:
Ecology and the Human Spirit. "Global warming is a global
emergency," he said, urging all gathered to take decisive
action to avert crisis by using political will — "a
Gore received an honorary doctorate recognizing him as
a distinguished public servant and a longtime friend of
Also honored at the ceremony were Christopher Elser
and Linda Trinh, members of the class of 2005 who were
tragically murdered, Elser in April 2004 and Trinh in
January 2005. Elser's younger sister, Taylor, received a
certificate of merit on his behalf. Trinh's parents, Quy
Trinh and Hoan Ngo, received her biomedical engineering
degree; at the time of her death, she had already earned
the requisite credits.
The senior class gift is a stained glass window
dedicated to their two classmates' memory. Adorned with
blue jays and cherry blossoms, it will be installed in the
walkway between the Charles Street and St. Paul Street
buildings of the new Charles Commons project, which will
open in fall 2006. The window is on display in the Mattin