May 23, 2011

Pomp and ceremonies close year

Degrees to be confirmed at universitywide event on Thursday

The 2010–2011 academic year culminates this week with a big “green” bash and a flurry of ceremonies to celebrate JHU’s new pack of alumni.

In an effort to promote a more unified Johns Hopkins family, the university last year fused the universitywide commencement ceremony with the Homewood undergraduate diploma ceremony for one grand graduation observance. The result was a single ceremony for graduates from all divisions and campuses.

The event this year will take place rain or shine from 8:40 a.m. to noon on Thursday, May 26, on Homewood Field. The stadium holds 9,000 people—no tickets necessary.

Fareed Zakaria, host of his own international affairs program on CNN and one of the most influential political commentators of his day, will be the commencement speaker.

The majority of students will receive their diplomas following the event; others will receive them at separate diploma ceremonies at their respective schools.

The morning ceremony will feature remarks from President Ronald J. Daniels and a speech by Zakaria, the conferring of all degrees, recognition of new members of the Society of Scholars (see story, page 4) and the bestowing of honorary degrees.

Honorary degrees will be awarded to Zakaria; C. Michael Armstrong, who will conclude his six-year tenure as chairman of Johns Hopkins Medicine at the end of June; John Barth, professor emeritus in the Krieger School’s Writing Seminars; Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; David M. Serwadda, a physician and pioneering researcher of AIDS and its transmission; and David Simon, author and writer/producer of NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Streets and HBO’s The Wire and Treme.

All undergraduate and doctoral students in attendance will have their names announced as they file on stage to have their degrees recognized. The ceremony will also feature a presentation of the Homewood Schools’ senior class gift, an address from the class president and some pomp and circumstance, including music and the procession of graduates onto the field.

Prior to the ceremony, the undergraduates from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering will gather on the Keyser Quadrangle and take a ceremonial “final walk” through campus, passing through the Freshman Quad, where their academic journey started. All other graduates will enter from the Athletic Center.

Following the ceremony, the newly minted alumni and their families will be invited to a reception on the Keyser Quadrangle.

The university is also demonstrating its commitment to sustainability by hosting a “green” commencement. The effort includes opting for caps and gowns made from 100 percent recyclable materials, and reusable stage decorations; offering guests water in biodegradable rather than plastic bottles, while also encouraging them to bring their own reusable water bottles; and minimizing printed materials and choosing paper for the commencement program that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Local caterers specializing in green practices were chosen for the president’s post-commencement reception on the Keyser Quadrangle, where the food will be served on compostable dinnerware. Composting bins will be provided for the biodegradable water bottles and dinnerware.

Joanna Calabrese, sustainability outreach coordinator in the university’s Office of Sustainability, said that this year’s commencement will be the largest green event in Johns Hopkins history. Calabrese said that this is a collaborative effort that brings together departments, offices and students, who will volunteer at the event to encourage attendees to properly dispose of their waste.

“This effort demonstrates that the university’s commitment to sustainability extends to all aspects of university operations, including campus events,” she said. “Large-scale university events such as commencement offer an exciting opportunity to introduce new ideas and practices to a broad and diverse audience of people. It is our office’s hope that the green features of this year’s commencement will inspire individuals in attendance to make environmentally responsible decisions in the future.”

Zakaria, invited to be speaker by the senior class, hosts CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and also serves as editor at large for Time magazine and as a columnist for The Washington Post. The Indian-American journalist was described in 1999 by Esquire magazine as “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation.” In 2010, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top 100 global thinkers.

Zakaria has conducted in-depth interviews with prominent world figures including the Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, King Abdullah II, Dmitry Medvedev and Moammar Gadhafi, as well as countless intellectuals, business leaders, politicians and journalists. In its first year, GPS garnered an Emmy nomination for an interview with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Zakaria became Time editor at large in October 2010 after spending 10 years overseeing all of Newsweek’s editions abroad. He has received numerous honors for his writing, including a 2010 National Magazine Award for his post-9/11 Newsweek cover story, “Why They Hate Us,” published Oct. 15, 2001.

Zakaria has written several books, including most recently The New York Times bestseller and critically acclaimed The Post-American World. He’s a regular commentator on many news programs and a frequent and popular guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Born in India in 1964, Zakaria received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale and a doctorate in political science from Harvard. He currently serves as a trustee of Yale.

The Bloomberg School of Public Health’s speaker will be Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Prior to taking his current post in January, Sharfstein served as the Food and Drug Administration’s principal deputy commissioner, the agency’s second-highest-ranking position, appointed by President Obama. From December 2005 through March 2009, he was commissioner of health for the city of Baltimore. The ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

James F. Pitts, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, will speak at the Whiting School of Engineering’s graduate ceremony, to be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, on Homewood Field. Pitts oversees business operations in defense electronics, airspace management systems, navigation systems, radar and self-protection systems, communications systems, marine systems, space systems, oceanic and naval systems, government systems and logistics services. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering science and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins.

At its diploma award ceremony, the School of Medicine will hear from Johns Hopkins’ own Henry Brem, the Harvey Cushing Professor of Neurosurgery and professor of biomedical engineering and of oncology, with a joint appointment in ophthalmology. Brem focuses his clinical practice on the surgical treatment of pituitary tumors, meningiomas, gliomas, acoustic neuromas, skull base tumors and other solid brain tumors. He has developed new clinical treatments for brain tumors, including the delivery of chemotherapy directly to the brain through the Gliadel wafer, anti-angiogenesis therapies, computer navigation systems used during surgery and brain tumor vaccines.

The ceremony will be at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 24, in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Kathleen A. Dracup, dean of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing, will be the speaker for the School of Nursing ceremony, to be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, in the Hippodrome Theatre. Dracup holds a doctorate in nursing, and her professional career includes 35 years of experience in cardiovascular nursing and university professorships. She is internationally recognized for her investigation into the care of patients with heart disease and its effects on family members.

Robert S. Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, will be the speaker at the Carey Business School graduate diploma award ceremony, to be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24, in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Langer is widely known for his breakthrough work on controlled-release formulas in drugs, which allow medication to be released on a sustained, periodic basis so that patients can take drugs less frequently while receiving extended benefits. At MIT, being named an Institute Professor is the highest honor that can be awarded to a faculty member.

The diploma ceremony speaker for SAIS will be Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme. The event will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Sheeran oversees the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, feeding more than 90 million people on average each year in more than 70 countries. She previously served as undersecretary for economic, energy and agricultural affairs at the Department of State.

Gary Knell, president and CEO of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the long-running innovative, educational children’s television show Sesame Street, will speak at the School of Education undergraduate and graduate diploma award ceremony. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, on Homewood Field. Knell has been instrumental in bringing about the show’s groundbreaking co-productions in South Africa, India, Northern Ireland and Egypt.

The Peabody Conservatory diploma award ceremony speaker will be soprano Marni Nixon, who will receive the 2011 George Peabody Medal at the ceremony. Inaugurated in 1981, the Peabody Institute’s highest award honors individuals who have made exceptional contributions to music in America.

Nixon has been a renowned playback singer for actresses in several well-known movie musicals, including Natalie Wood’s performance in West Side Story, earning her the nickname “The Voice of Hollywood.” Her career has spanned genres from opera to popular music, and she has been awarded 26 Emmys and four personal Emmys for best actress for her children’s television show, Boomerang, which was in reruns for 25 years. Nixon notably sang for Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956) and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964). Time magazine called her “the Ghostess with the Mostess.”

The ceremony will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, in Peabody’s Friedberg Hall.

The Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ master’s diploma award ceremony will feature Thomas Lovejoy, the biodiversity chair at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, based in Washington, D.C. Lovejoy’s lifelong appreciation of wildlife led him to a career devoted to studying biodiversity and raising awareness for environmental preservation, from the creation of the concept of debt-for-nature swaps and to the founding of the PBS show Nature. The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 27, on Homewood Field.

Also being celebrated this week is the commissioning of 10 new second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. The Blue Jay Battalion of ROTC will hold its 2011 Commissioning Ceremony at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, in Homewood’s Shriver Hall. Seven of the men and women will be graduating from Johns Hopkins; the others are students at UMBC, one of five area schools that participate in the 95-year-old program operated by the Department of Military Science at Johns Hopkins.

For more information, updates and announcements concerning Commencement 2011, go to The site will be updated regularly.

Gazette coverage of the universitywide commencement ceremony will be posted online at on May 27.