May 21, 2012

Pomp and ceremonies close year


The 2011–12 academic year culminates this week with a flurry of events to celebrate JHU’s new pack of alumni, headlined by the Commencement ceremony for graduates from all divisions and campuses. The universitywide event will take place this year, rain or shine, from 8:40 a.m. to noon on Thursday, May 24, on Homewood Field. The stadium holds 9,000 people—no tickets necessary.

Samuel J. Palmisano, chairman of the board of IBM, returns to his alma mater as the main speaker at the universitywide Commencement ceremony, which will also feature remarks by President Ronald J. Daniels, the conferring of all degrees and the bestowing of honorary degrees.

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

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 include a presentation of the Homewood schools’ senior class gift, an address from the class president and some pomp and circumstance, including music accompanying the processional.

Before entering the field, 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” across 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 will once again put its “green” principles into practice at Commencement to create a zero-waste ceremony through several measures, including caps and gowns made from 100 percent recyclable materials, reusable stage decorations and encouraging guests to bring refillable water bottles while also helping keep the crowd hydrated by offering water in biodegradable bottles. In addition, the program will be printed on paper that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, the reception will feature food from local caterers specializing in green practices, and biodegradable dinnerware and food scraps will be composted.

Palmisano, a 1973 graduate of Johns Hopkins and a former university trustee, began his career at IBM right after college and rose through the ranks at a business currently listed 18th on the Fortune 500. He is perhaps best known for leading the ambitious transformation of a 100-year-old company, and for his vision of how technology and global integration are reshaping business and society. Under his leadership, IBM made tough calls to get out of businesses that the company itself had invented and to enter new ones, leading to growth and innovation.

Palmisano grew up in Baltimore and attended Calvert Hall College High School. At Johns Hopkins, he studied history and played on the offensive line for the Blue Jays football team that he co-captained. He began his career at IBM in 1973 in Baltimore and took on a series of leadership positions before rising to president and chief operating officer in 2000, CEO in 2002 and chairman of the board in 2003.

He holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was awarded an honorary fellowship from the London Business School. He received the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Business Leadership Award in 2009 and the inaugural Deming Cup, presented by Columbia Business School’s W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity and Competitiveness, in 2010. He is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Palmisano will be awarded an honorary degree during the ceremony, along with fellow honorees Rita R. Colwell, an environmental microbiologist and worldwide leader in the fight to provide safe drinking water; Stephen H. Lewis, a Canadian diplomat, politician, broadcaster and academic dedicated to humanitarian service; John C. Malone, chair of Liberty Media and of Liberty Global, which provides broadband distribution and video programming in Europe, Latin America and Australia; Amartya Sen, a celebrated economist renowned for his trailblazing studies of social choice, welfare measurement and poverty; and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, revered around the world for her peaceful fight for democracy in Burma.

Noteworthy speakers at other Johns Hopkins Commencement-related events—held at various times and locations from Monday, May 21, through Friday, May 25—include U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, who will address graduates of the School of Education; Timothy Geithner, U.S. secretary of the Treasury, who will send off the graduates of his alma mater, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies; Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, who will speak to graduates of the School of Medicine; and Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric and the chair of President Obama’s Council of Jobs and Competitiveness, who will address graduates of the Carey Business School. At Peabody, in lieu of a speech, legendary jazz drummer and bandleader Roy Haynes, this year’s recipient of the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America, will be interviewed briefly by faculty artist Nasar Abadey, a drummer and composer.

The total number of earned degrees, certificates and diplomas awarded is expected to be about 7,529, including 1,664 bachelor’s degrees, 1,249 of which are to be conferred upon graduates of the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, both on the Homewood campus; and 5,865 graduate degrees from across the university.

For more information, updates and announcements concerning Commencement 2012, and a full list of speakers, go to The site will be updated regularly.

Gazette coverage of the universitywide Commencement ceremony, including photographs, will be posted online at on May 25.