Johns Hopkins Gazette | May 26, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 26, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 36
Sun Shines on New Grads

Engineering Dean Nick Jones and honorary degree recipient William R. Brody

Academic year comes to a close with conferring of more than 6,700 degrees

By Greg Rienzi, The Gazette
Photos by Will Kirk and Jay VanRrensselaer / HIPS

With a future so bright, the Class of 2009 had to wear shades.

On a cloudless day, sunglasses were the accessory of choice on Homewood Field for both the universitywide commencement and undergraduate diploma ceremonies.

Under a Johns Hopkins-blue sky, newly minted President Ronald Daniels conferred more than 6,700 degrees on the graduates at the 133rd universitywide commencement ceremony, held on May 21.

Daniels, who assumed his post on March 2, appeared to revel in the proceedings, taking nearly every opportunity to flash a smile, shake hands and share a quick chat with graduates and their friends and families. On several occasions, Daniels sprinted out of the processional line to greet well-wishers.

As is customary for the president, Daniels delivered the morning's address, in which he said that while the graduates might enter a world at a time of profound uncertainty and anxiety, they also stood on the cusp of a new era that beckoned great opportunity for those ready to seize it.

"You, and we, have the opportunity to examine the kind of society we have become, to reassert what and who we want to be, and to devise anew the institutions and expectations that will shape our lives and our futures," he said. "This is a time of choice and decision. We have arrived at a crossroads, not just economically and politically but a social and ethical crossroads as well. Believe it or not, this is an exciting time."

Timely AND practical: 2009 sunglasses

He shared an example from the university's own history, the year 1888, when the still fledgling Johns Hopkins teetered on the brink of financial ruin due to the collapse of B&O Railroad stock in which the university's endowment was heavily invested. While the university could have gone in 101 different directions — including becoming a mechanics school — founding President Daniel Coit Gilman and the trustees recommitted themselves to the idea of a world-class research university and appealed to the city's leading citizens to help keep the university operating.

One such philanthropist was Mary Elizabeth Garrett, who, along with a group of other young feminists, offered the university a gift of $100,000 to found the School of Medicine. The gift famously came with two chief conditions: that the school must be organized along the latest scientific theories, and that it must admit women freely and equally along with men. That long-ago time of uncertainty, Daniels said, birthed a revolution in medical education and the transformation of medical practice.

"For Johns Hopkins, the crisis of that year was an opportunity to rethink, reimagine and recommit to our fundamental mission," he said. "Crisis provides the opportunity to think anew and the obligation to act anew."

During the ceremony, honorary degrees were conferred upon William Goodwin Jr., president and chairman of CCA Industries and founder of the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research; Richard J. Johns, a pioneer of biomedical engineering who launched the renowned department in the field at Johns Hopkins; and posthumously on Rep. Tom Lantos, a longtime Democratic congressman from California and the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Annette Lantos accepted the degree on her late husband's behalf.

For the afternoon's undergraduate diploma ceremony, many sought shelter from the sun under umbrellas or unfolded graduation programs.

During the event, the 1,000-plus graduating seniors and the thousands of guests listened to an address by Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and famous daughter of Baltimore.

University chaplain Albert Mosley and honorary degree recipient Richard J. Johns

Pelosi, the first woman to lead a major party in the U.S. Congress, received an honorary degree at the ceremony, as did former university President William R. Brody. A sustained applause followed Brody's presentation, a tribute to his 12-year tenure, during which time the university grew immensely.

Pelosi began her remarks by saying what a great pleasure it was to be honored alongside Dr. Brody and at an institution she dubbed "the crown jewel of a great city." She spoke of her younger days in Baltimore, when as a teen she would come to Homewood Field to see both high school and JHU lacrosse games.

In her speech, Pelosi spoke of her call to public service and how, when growing up, she and her brothers were taught to have a responsibility to the community and the courage to fight for their beliefs.

She echoed Daniels by saying that the Class of 2009 departs at a time of enormous challenges and consequential choices. Pelosi used the Greek word Ananke, which means both destiny and scarcity, to sum up what lies ahead for the graduates.

Arts and Sciences Dean Adam Falk, honorary degree recipient Nancy Pelosi and President Ronald J. Daniels

"The Greeks were suggesting that times of scarcity drive us to choose a destiny — and that these are moments when history can be shaped through deliberate choice," she said. "Throughout our history, America has confronted and surmounted each moment of Ananke. We did so because each generation, at each critical moment, understood the challenge, made a bold choice and shaped a destiny of its own."

Pelosi said she believes that the greatest challenge of today is the global climate crisis, which she has made the flagship issue of her speakership. She argued how global climate change is a national security, economic, environmental health and moral issue that needs to be confronted.

"All four of these missions require a heavy investment in these four words: science, science, science and science," Pelosi said to an instant round of applause. "The enormity of the global climate crisis also requires the intellectual resources of the entire Class of 2009. Each of you brings something unique — your dreams, your passion and your expertise."

End of a journey

Coincidentally, Pelosi earlier that morning had discussed climate change with another Johns Hopkins graduation speaker, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke at SAIS's afternoon diploma ceremony.

Pelosi boiled her message to the graduates down to a few words: "Know your power, and follow your passion."

"Realize the promise that you have shown here at Johns Hopkins, and honor your responsibility to the future," she said.

Daniels gave his own remarks at the undergraduate ceremony. He played up the newness of his presidency and joked how the "new guy" gets to pass off blame and take all the credit. He then proceeded to do just that. "You've just ended four years of challenging hard work, and we all managed to get through it together," he said with a smile.

He then proceeded to credit the Class of 2009 for its efforts with countless hours of community service, the university's greening initiative and the best water balloon fight in the school's history. "And now you've given us a clear blue sky for graduation. Nice touch," he said.

After the Thursday ceremonies, families, friends and graduates reunited in a sea of smiles, hugs, tears and bouquets. Many simply sought shade, and hundreds headed to Nichols House, the president's on-campus residence, for a garden reception.

SAIS Dean Jessica Einhorn; Annette Lantos; Lantos' grandson Tomicah Tillemann-Dick, a new SAIS PhD; and President Daniels

The Gazette is not sure what was more popular at the reception — the iced tea and cold water bottles, or photo ops with President Daniels and his wife, Joanne Rosen.

For more photos of the day, go to: and to where images can be purchased. In addition, a commencement video is online at


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