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May 12, 2014

Commencement Speakers

In 1830, four years after its founding, Western Reserve College held commencement exercises for its first graduating class of four students. Over the next 184 years the University has gathered to honor the accomplishments of our graduates. A common element of commencement ceremonies is the keynote address offering students advice, encouragement, and congratulations. A few of our more prominent speakers have included:

2004 - 10 years ago Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and the 1986 receipent of the Nobel Peace Prize, gave the address at CWRU's main commencement ceremony. Case Western Reserve awarded Wiesel the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

1964 - 50 years ago poet, playwright, and novelist James Langston Hughes was the Adelbert College commencement speaker. Cleveland Plain Dealer coverage quoted Hughes as urging the graduates, “It is up to you in the world of tomorrow to see that everyone has his rent money, his mortgage money and a place to eat and sleep.”

Western Reserve University awarded Hughes the honorary Doctor of Letters. The citation reads,
“Poet, writer, and powerful advocate of the cause of freedom.
Because you have used your great creative gifts to enrich the literature of our country both in poetry and prose;
Because you have championed the cause of the creative artist in our society;
Because you have brought credit to this city of your youth;
Because you have given your efforts and your talents to the achievement of a greater freedom and a more perfect dignity for men of all races, we delight to honor you.”

1894 - 120 years ago Jane Addams was the College for Women commencement speaker. Addams, co-founder of Hull House, the first settlement house in the United States, was a woman’s suffrage activist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Cleveland Plain Dealer coverage of her commencement address included her thoughts on education, “People used to take education much as they took measles. Not until recently did it become a permanent feature of life, a vital part of humanity...” and women’s role in society’s social problems, “She must seek to relieve the depressed and comfort the afflicted. She must realize the human claim. The world has been pushed forward, not by patriots, but by humanitarians.”

Additional infomation about Commencement, including images and programs can be found in the University Archives Commencement Collection in Digital Case.

Posted by jmt3 at May 12, 2014 08:10 PM

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