The winds of change blew through Homewood Field on May
22 as the Class of 2008 closed a
very meaningful chapter in their lives on a gusty and cool
One could say the celebration began with french fries
and flowers at the 132nd universitywide
commencement ceremony, where President William R. Brody
conferred more than 6,000 degrees on
the graduates. Heading to their seats, many guests stopped
to buy bouquets of roses and souvenir T-
shirts for their loved ones, sidetracking to the concession
stand for some early morning ballpark fare
for themselves. Hot dogs for breakfast, anyone?
Brody delivered the
address, his last as president, in
which he said it's OK to question ideas and
long-held beliefs. He told the tale of Barry Marshall, an
Australian physician who persevered with his
theory that stomach ulcers were caused not by too much
acid, as the medical profession believed, but
by bacteria that turned out to be spiral-shaped. Brody
quoted a Nobel Laureate who once said that
discovery consists of seeing what everyone else has seen,
but thinking what no one else has thought.
"And you are exceptionally well-prepared to do this,"
said Brody, who is retiring from his post at
the end of the year. "In so much of our world — in
the sciences and humanities, business and politics,
medicine and government — there are mistaken beliefs
that have survived all this time largely through
force of habit. They are spirals of misinformation hiding
in plain sight."
Honorary degrees were conferred upon George Bunting,
Ethel Ennis, Robert Fischell and
Raymond A. "Chip" Mason.
For the afternoon's undergraduate diploma ceremony,
students struggled mightily to hold onto
their caps as the winds whipped through Homewood Field.
Speaking of forceful gusts, speaker William
S. Nye, aka Bill Nye, the Science Guy, proved to be one for
the gathered 1,000-plus graduating seniors
whom he instructed to "go out and change the world."
Nye, an engineer turned television icon, who received
an honorary degree at the ceremony,
speech with trademark quips and a sobering
call to arms, rolled up beautifully in one
line: "There are some enormous, serious and grim problems
that we want you to solve so that the rest
of us can sit back and retire in peace."
He spoke of climate change, accelerating population
growth and the need to better manage the
one Earth we have. How to solve the world's problems? Don't
reach for just the low-hanging fruit like
recycled paper and energy-efficient light bulbs, Nye said.
"You in a few moments will be graduates of Johns
Hopkins. You are among the very best in the
world in thinking about new techniques, new tools and, if I
may, new tricks to reach for the high-
hanging fruit," said Nye, who has strong ties to the
university. His father was a 1939 graduate of
Johns Hopkins and his grandfather taught organic chemistry
here. "Go after the big prizes, the great
big prizes. That is what we want you to do. Change the
world in new and exciting ways and, in Science
Guy terms, hugely gigantic big ways."
Not in attendance at the event were 26 graduating
members of the baseball and men's lacrosse
teams. For only the second time, the lacrosse team
qualified for the NCAA Division I Final Four in the
same year that the baseball team advanced to the NCAA
Division III College World Series. The
university held a
special ceremony on Wednesday in Hodson
Hall to allow the graduates (11 lacrosse, 15
baseball) and their families to celebrate before the teams
left for competitions in Foxborough, Mass.,
and Appleton, Wis., respectively.
After the Thursday ceremonies, families, friends and
graduates reunited in a sea of smiles,
hugs, tears and bouquets. Brody, who seemed to savor each
moment of his final commencement as
president, took time out after both to pose for pictures
and seemingly congratulate every graduate
As of press time, it's believed President Brody was
still shaking hands.