Few occasions can elicit joy, sadness, relief, nerves and
exhilaration — and all that in just a 60-second
period. Graduation is such an occasion, and a full rainbow
of emotions was on display Thursday, May 25, as the
university honored and said farewell to the class of
With threatening gray clouds overhead, the
commencement ceremony started the day off at Homewood
Field, where more than 6,000 degrees and certificates were
conferred by President William R. Brody on behalf of Johns
Hopkins' eight academic divisions [photos in box at right].
President Brody, as is his custom, delivered the
universitywide address, which focused on "the privilege of
choice" in a free society. "And this process of choice is
not just about choosing where we make our money," Brody
said. "It is choosing our identity, about deciding who we
are. And that demands deliberative thought and difficult
To help in their decision making, Brody offered the
students a "map" to follow and advice on potholes to look
out for. Above all, he said, pursue your dreams. Do not
overvalue money or overestimate intelligence, he added.
Geniuses and experts are made, he said, not born.
"Success is hard work," he said. "Geniuses get that
way because they work hard at it. They demonstrate a rage
to master their subject matter in no small part because
they are daring to follow their dreams."
For the afternoon's undergraduate diploma ceremony,
Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of
Health, provided thoughtful words for the gathered 1,100
graduating seniors [photos in box below].
Zerhouni, the former executive vice dean of the
university's School of Medicine, focused his talk on what
he sees as two divergent globalizations, the connected
world and the disconnected. The connected, he said, is one
where gaps in distance, wealth and knowledge are rapidly
decreasing. But he warned that half of the world's
population lives in the disconnected world, "where
knowledge is decreasing, and poverty and disease are on a
He said that these two worlds are intertwined, as was
illustrated by the stark differences between the haves and
have-nots in New Orleans during and after the Katrina
"And it's not just there. It's right here in East
Baltimore as well," he said. "All over the country, and the
world, there are huge divides in access to health care,
access to good education, to food and other resources. This
is something we as a society have to commit to changing,
because it will affect the stability of the world you and
your children will be living in for years to come."
His overriding piece of advice, then, was to "connect
to the disconnected."
Both Zerhouni and Brody took time out to honor and
salute the parents and families of the graduates, as did
one student who lettered the words "Thanks Mom & Dad" on
the top of her cap. Other cap adornments, chosen by a
handful of seniors, included a monkey, a dog and one big
The gray clouds partly opened throughout the day,
letting drops of rain fall on Homewood Field. After the
ceremony, drops of tears fell as well, as graduates united
with family and friends to celebrate the occasion.
Awaiting Sarah Schaeffer was a family more than 20
strong, many of whom had come down from New Haven, Conn.
Sarah's father, Ted, reminisced about the time four years
ago when he helped load his daughter, a Writing Seminars
major, into her dorm.
"It seemed like a flash to have gotten from her
childhood and her first years of school to [that] point,"
he said, on the verge of tears. "And now, after four years
of wonderful experiences at Johns Hopkins, she is a
graduate. She will attest that Johns Hopkins has been the
best educational experience of her life. And the friends
she has met on the way, and times she has had here, have
been really very, very special for her — and special
for us, because she has included us in all of this."