The words of legendary astronaut and USC alumnus Neil Armstrong will send more than 8,000 graduating students out into the world at the 122nd annual commencement ceremony at Alumni Park Friday, May 13.
Rabbi Susan Laemmle, dean of religious life, will deliver the invocation to begin the commencement ceremony at 9 a.m.
“As one of USC’s most illustrious alumni, Neil Armstrong truly embodies the virtues of the ideal Trojan: faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous and ambitious,” said President Steven B. Sample. “His accomplishments have inspired people worldwide and having Neil Armstrong be part of one of the most important moments of their lives is a tremendous privilege for our graduating students and their families.”
An American icon, Armstrong became a global household name in 1969 when he became the first person to walk on the moon. Over his illustrious career, Armstrong has distinguished himself as a pilot, explorer, educator and a war veteran.
Among his many accolades, Armstrong earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, in 1969, and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1986. The Purdue University graduate earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from USC in 1970 through an extension program while working as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base.
During the commencement ceremony, Armstrong will also receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, one of six honorary degrees to be handed out that day (see story, page 4).
The day of pomp and ceremony kicks off at 8:30 a.m. when the processional march begins from Bovard Auditorium and continues into Alumni Memorial Park.
President Steven B. Sample will then confer approximately 4,160 bachelor’s degrees, 3,370 master’s degrees and 890 doctorates.
Valedictorian Katherine Trefz will also address the crowd of more than 30,000 family, friends and well-wishers.
Once the main ceremony concludes, most graduates will disperse to the satellite ceremonies of their respective schools to receive their diplomas.
Among this year’s satellite speakers are: John Williams, Academy Award-winning film composer and one of this year’s honorary degree recipients (USC Thornton School of Music); Dan Bane, chairman and chief executive officer of Trader Joe’s Co. (USC Leventhal School of Accounting); and Tommy Lasorda, assistant to the chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers (USC School of Pharmacy).
Ramping up to commencement day are three days of events celebrating the various accomplishments of graduating Trojans.
The laudatory proceedings begin Wednesday, May 11, when the Phi Beta Kappa Initiation Ceremony, honoring 93 seniors, takes place at 1:30 p.m. in Bing Theatre.
On Thursday, May 12, the Graduate School Doctoral Hooding Ceremony takes place at 9:30 a.m. in Bovard Auditorium. Doctoral hooding ceremonies for other schools will be held throughout the week at various locations.
Following at 1 p.m. is the fifth annual Senior and Graduate Recognition Awards Ceremony, also at Bovard. During the event, President Sample will honor this year’s 261 Renaissance Scholars and 10 Renaissance Scholar prize winners.
Students’ academic achievements will also be honored at the Wall of Scholars celebration at the Leavey Library Weingart Reading Room at 3 p.m. This year the names of 49 distinguished scholars will be added to the wall.
At 5 p.m., the popular Baccalaurate Ceremony takes place in Bovard Auditorium, followed by the sold-out Baccalaureate Dinner at 6:30 p.m. at Pardee Way. The Rev. Reverend Philip A. Amerson, president of Claremont School of Theology, will speak at this year’s ceremony, which is expected to attract more than 1,000 people.
The day’s festivities conclude with the Chicano/Latino Ceremony and the Black Graduation Celebration, at 8 p.m. at Cromwell Field and Bovard Auditorium, respectively.
University Marshall John Callaghan has served as director of commencement for 13 years, overseeing all aspects of the day’s events. He believes commencement gives new graduates a chance to reflect on their own accomplishments.
“It is a celebration of the success of the students,” he said. “It’s the culmination of all their work here, whether they’re receiving bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees. I look upon it as a marvelous forum for this wonderful celebration of themselves.”
More stories about: Commencement 2005