Rain and shine

Despite stormy weather, Chicago celebrates its 503rd Convocation the way William Rainey Harper intended: as an occasion to unite the entire University community.

By Lydialyle Gibson
Photography by Dan Dry

In the middle of Convocation on June 12—a day when, for the first time since 1929, every University school and division, both graduate and undergraduate, came together for a single outdoor ceremony on the main quad—it rained. Actually, it poured. At 10:56 a.m., just as Chicago Booth graduates were called to stand and President Robert J. Zimmer prepared to confer their degrees, the sky opened up. Umbrellas appeared, graduates and visitors scrambled into the ponchos they’d been handed on their way in that morning, and dozens fled to the buildings along the quads.

But the day soon brightened. The ceremony carried on despite the weather—“rain or shine,” as the program said—and when President Zimmer congratulated Chicago’s newest MBAs, exhorting them to make wise economic choices “for the benefit of all people,” a jubilant cheer erupted. Ten minutes later, School of Social Service Administration graduates, by now thoroughly soaked, cheered even louder. With camera lenses poking out from under ponchos, parents clicked away.

The rain stopped after half an hour, and the tartan-clad bagpipers emerged from their refuge inside the Oriental Institute to lead the recessional. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, schools and divisions held their own hooding ceremonies and receptions. Graduates of the College marched back into the main quad at 1:30 p.m. to hear Dean John Boyer, AM’69, PhD’75, declare them alumni and repeat the salutation he gave on their first day on campus: “Welcome,” he said, “to the University of Chicago.”

For everyone, including staff members who’d spent the past year organizing the 503rd Convocation as a gathering of the entire University community, the day offered immediate testament to featured speaker Paul Sereno’s assertion that “contingency is to be embraced, not feared.”

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