Syracuse University Magazine

2015 Commencement

2015 Commencement


Syracuse University and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry celebrated Commencement on May 10 in the Carrier Dome. It was the 161st Commencement for SU and the 118th for SUNY ESF. Here are some highlights:

Degrees Conferred: SU, 5,613; ESF, 566

Class Marshals: Ashlee Sage Newman, College of Arts and Sciences/Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; Ronald James-Terry Taylor, College of Arts and Sciences/Maxwell School

Student Speaker: Matthew Fernandes, College of Arts and Sciences and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Honorary Doctoral Recipients: Bob Costas ’74, NBC sports journalist and broadcaster (Doctor of Letters); Charlotte Holstein, founder and executive director of F.O.C.U.S. Greater Syracuse (Doctor of Letters); Mary Karr, award-winning poet and best-selling memoirist, Jesse Truesdell Peck Professor of Literature, College of Arts and Sciences (Doctor of Humane Letters); Sonia Nieto, professor emerita of language, literacy, and culture, University of Massachusetts Amherst (Doctor of Humane Letters); Richard L. Thompson G’67, attorney, civic leader, veteran, and chairman emeritus of SU Board of Trustees (Doctor of Humane Letters).



Commencement Speaker: 

Mary Karr

Quoting Karr:

"And kids, thanks for being here—a university is a city of ideas, and we’re grateful that you became citizens of our city. Whether your degree is in architecture or exercise physiology, law or mathematics, by being here you’ve added something to the conversation this city runs on the way a body runs on breath."


Chancellor Kent Syverud



My Adventures as a Commencement Marshal

Marvin DrugerSyracuse professors emeriti and faculty marshals Marvin Druger (left) and Roosevelt "Rick" Wright Jr. G'93 share a laugh during Commencement.

By Marvin Druger

On May 10, Syracuse University held its 161st Commencement. I served as a faculty marshal to help in the ceremony. Commencement marshals wear a fancy orange robe and a flat, blue hat with a tassel. At a previous graduation, when I told the person in charge that the hat she gave me wasn’t big enough, she remarked, “No hat is big enough for your head.”   

The Commencement ceremony started for me at the parking lot on Waverly Avenue. They gave me a pass to park there, so I did. I had to walk all the way uphill to the Dome. When I got near there, I met a parking guard I know. “You could have parked right next to the Dome,” he said. “I’d let you do it.” Now, he tells me.

I mingled with other faculty marshals in a locker room in the Dome. It was hot and muggy, so I had a bottle of water, visited the restroom, and then walked to my assigned area in the Dome. When I got there, I didn’t see my usual partners. “What shall I do?” I asked the marshal in charge. She told me to be a “stanchion.” I have had people call me many names, but this was the first time I was called a “stanchion.” So, I stood stiffly while students paraded around me toward their seats in the Dome. My favorite comment to students as they marched past me was, “Smile, you’re on TV.” I sometimes said, “Tell your parents to send money.” In previous years, I used to help line up students in two lines. I would hold up three fingers and yell, “Two lines, please, I was a math major!”

This year, I suddenly realized I was in the wrong area. I was supposed to be on the opposite side of the Dome, behind the stage, lining up students for the procession. No wonder I didn’t recognize the faculty marshals I usually worked with at graduation. I was in the wrong place.

If students wanted to go to the bathroom, they had to be escorted by a marshal, so they wouldn’t interfere with the procession. I was given that task for several students. Arrogantly, I thought to myself, “After almost 50 years as a faculty member at SU, and distinguished as a Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence, my role was to escort students to the bathroom.” But, I did the job and led students across the field to the locker room facilities. Then, I had to keep the students there, until the procession was over. When it was over, I had the vision of the next announcement that would be made over the loudspeaker, “The next group marching are those students who had to go to the bathroom.” I had visions of me leading the march of the bathroom students down the aisle to their seats, accompanied by procession music.

The graduation ceremony went smoothly. The only snag was what happened when the president of SUNY ESF concluded his speech jokingly with “…So, be sure to shut off your cell phones.” Unbelievably, at that very moment, my cell phone started ringing loudly. I was in the front row, and, of course, had difficulty figuring out how to shut off the phone.

I shook hands with the Ph.D. students as they went up the stage to be congratulated by the Chancellor. I was at the base of the ramp, so I was the first to say, “Congratulations, Doctor,” or “Doctor, congratulations.” I was not supposed to be doing this, but it was fun.

University photographer Steve Sartori, who I consider my personal photographer, was present, so I made sure he took photos of me, as he usually does. I am sure he has more photos of me and my late wife, Pat, than he does of anyone else on campus.

In the middle of Mary Karr’s Commencement speech, it started pouring outside, making it sound like the roof of the Dome was coming down as a torrent of rain pounded on it. Other than that, the entire ceremony was very quiet. There were virtually no balloons or inflatables. There was no sign of alcohol, or drugs, or items that needed to be confiscated by marshals. Maybe, it was too hot and too muggy in the Dome to stimulate enthusiastic celebrations? Or, maybe, this generation of graduates is different from previous generations?

Finally, it was all over. I had survived being a marshal at another Commencement, without too many mishaps. I hope nobody noticed what I did wrong. I’ll know when I get a note from the Office of Special Events at SU saying, “Thanks for being a marshal at Commencement, but, henceforth, your services are no longer needed.”

Marvin Druger is a professor emeritus of biology and science education who has served as a faculty marshal at many a Commencement.

Photos by SU Photo and Imaging Center

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