Bennington College Commencement

You are cordially invited to Bennington College’s eighty-sixth Commencement—and second-ever virtual ceremony.

Please join us on May 28-29, 2021 as we celebrate the Class of 2021.

bennington campus from above (two rows of houses, a green lawn, and fall trees) play video
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Conferring of Degrees

Information for Graduates and Families

Following are several details to help you plan:

  • Guests. Two vaccinated guests per graduate are permitted to attend the Saturday Conferring of Degrees ceremony. Guests will need to register proof of vaccination in order to attend. Registration details will follow via email. 
  • Live Streaming. All events will be live streamed to include student, family, and friend participation in real time. 
  • Health and Safety. All standard COVID-19 safety protocols including face coverings, physical distancing, and personal hygiene will be strictly followed.
  • Commencement Fee. The $85 graduation fee helps offset the cost of your graduate's dinner, diploma and cover, and any necessary cap and gown rental. This fee will be billed in the spring.  

Commencement Schedule

Commencement Eve | Friday, May 28, 2021
Families and friends participate virtually.
*Dress your "Bennington best” — formal attire preferred.

5:30-6:30 pm | Live from the Red Carpet at Bennington with Fam Cam! Open Air Photobooth 
6:30-7:30 pm | Formal Senior Dinner (under the tent, seniors only) 
7:30-8:30 pm | Commencement Addresses
8:30 pm-dawn | Night Garden (opens at dusk, closes at dawn)

Commencement Morning | Saturday, May 29, 2021
Two vaccinated guests per graduate are welcome on campus for the Conferring of Degrees event only.

10:00 am Sharp! | Conferring of Degrees Ceremony

* All stated events will be live-streamed with the exception of the night garden.

**We reserve the right to change programming based on changes in weather, safety, CDC guidelines, or COVID-19 guidelines issued by the state of Vermont.

SPEAKER2021

Our Commencement Speakers

Soumya Rachel Shailendra '21

The 2021 Senior Speaker will be Soumya Rachel Shailendra '21. Soumya, who studied Drama and Literature during her time at Bennington, has not only focused on social movements and politics while in the classroom, but also helped create inclusive communities outside of the classroom. She was a founding student of the Consortium of Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education, and she encouraged meaningful conversations by starting an interfaith club for her peers. Soumya’s passion and fierce dedication to equity and freedom—particularly in today’s challenging climate—will continue to shape the College and community for years to come.

Darren Walker

The 2021 Commencement Speaker this year will be Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, a $14 billion international social justice philanthropy. As a leading voice on the need to address inequality, he is a member of Governor Cuomo’s Reimagining New York Commission and co-chair of NYC Census 2020. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. Under his leadership, the Ford Foundation became the first non-profit in US history to issue a $1 billion designated social bond in US capital markets for proceeds to strengthen and stabilize non-profit organizations in the wake of COVID-19.

Michael Wimberly

Music faculty member Michael Wimberly will be this year’s faculty speaker at Commencement. He will address Bennington’s class of 2021 during the Conferring of Degrees on Saturday, May 29, at 10:00 am. Wimberly is a celebrated and prolific composer/sound designer, and percussionist who has scored films such as As An Act of Protest and Atlantic City Lights for HBO. Wimberly has performed with funk legends Parliament Funkadelic, Brit songstress Joss Stone, and Steve Coleman's 5 Elements. He received his MA in Percussion from the Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY, and his BA in Percussion from Baldwin Wallace University/Conservatory in Berea, Ohio. Music of the African Diaspora and improvisation has become key components of Wimberly’s musical excavations and explorations. He released his latest album, “Afrofuturism,” on the Temple Mountain Record (TMR) in 2021.

GUESTS

Attendance Information for Guests at the Conferring of Degrees Ceremony 

We are pleased to share that two vaccinated guests per graduate are welcome on campus for the Conferring of Degrees Ceremony.

  • The Conferring of Degrees begins at 10:00 am sharp on Saturday morning. 
     
  • For guests: Please ensure the two guests per student have registered and uploaded their vaccination card. The campus will be open at 8:30 am; guests can follow parking instructions, and traffic patterns to Commons lawn. Guests should be seated by 9:30 am and should remain there for the duration of the ceremony. You will need to be masked. Guests are not permitted inside of buildings, though there will be bathroom facilities available. Note that this event will happen outside, rain or shine, so please bring sunscreen, umbrellas, hats, etc as necessary. 
     
  • All other friends and families will be able to watch the events via the web page or YouTube. They will be able to chat in real time to celebrate their graduates. 

REMOTE

How to Attend Virtual Commencement 

We're excited to announce that all virtual Commencement exercises will also premiere live right here on the Commencement webpage! Links will be posted on this page and will remain up for viewing after the premiere (no password or login required). Family members are invited to share this viewing link with their loved ones and honor their graduates on social media during the event.

Reminder emails will be sent out a week in advance, as well as the day before. Forward these reminders to your friends and family members to invite them to join in the celebration. 

Friday

Watch on YouTube

Saturday

Watch on YouTube

COVIDSAFE

COVID-19 Safety Measures

Friday evening

The event has been limited to graduates only. Students have been tested in advance of the event. 

  • On the red carpet | Students can remove their masks if they are distanced
  • Under the tent | Students should keep their masks on except while seated and eating
  • Photo booth | Students can remove their masks briefly for pictures


Saturday morning

Two vaccinated, registered guests per student. 

  • Guests and students should keep their masks on while sitting; as not all of our students are fully vaccinated, and there will still be a bit of milling around (getting up for photos, etc), and we want our students to feel comfortable.
  • Students can remove their masks to walk across the stage.

MENU2021

Commencement Dinner Menu

dinner menu First Course: 
Felled Tree
Forbidden purple rice, Laughing Child Farm sweet potato roll, wakame, wasabi pea, soy caviar *Vegan, gluten free, nut free, dairy free 

Second Course: 
Forest Floor 
Seared Northeast Family Farm beef tenderloin, celeriac puree, mushroom, truffled potato pave, spring vegetable, chimichurri *Gluten free, nut free, dairy free 

or Heartwood 
Squash wrapped Vermont soy tofu "Wellington," spring vegetable and quinoa, truffled potato pave, chimichurri *Vegan, gluten free, nut free, dairy free 

Third Course:
Raindrop | Dark chocolate mousse, raspberry coulis, chocolate sauce*Vegan, gluten free, nut free, dairy free 

Bennington College Commencement

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Recent messages to graduates

May 7, 2021 | A Message from President Walker

Dear Bennington Community, 

We are pleased to announce that the 2021 Commencement Speaker this year will be Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, a $14 billion international social justice philanthropy. As a leading voice on the need to address inequality, he is a member of Governor Cuomo’s Reimagining New York Commission and co-chair of NYC Census 2020. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. Under his leadership, the Ford Foundation became the first non-profit in US history to issue a $1 billion designated social bond in US capital markets for proceeds to strengthen and stabilize non-profit organizations in the wake of COVID-19.

The 2021 Senior Speaker will be Soumya Rachel Shailendra ‘21. Soumya, who studied Drama and Literature during her time at Bennington, has not only focused on social movements and politics while in the classroom, but also helped create inclusive communities outside of the classroom. She was a founding student of the Consortium of Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education, and she encouraged meaningful conversations by starting an interfaith club for her peers. Soumya’s passion and fierce dedication to equity and freedom—particularly in today’s challenging climate—will continue to shape the College and community for years to come.

Music faculty member Michael Wimberly will be this year’s faculty speaker at Commencement. He will address Bennington’s class of 2021 during the Conferring of Degrees on Saturday, May 29, at 10:00 am. Wimberly is a celebrated and prolific composer/sound designer, and percussionist who has scored films such as As An Act of Protest and Atlantic City Lights for HBO. Wimberly has performed with funk legends Parliament Funkadelic, Brit songstress Joss Stone, and Steve Coleman's 5 Elements. He received his MA in Percussion from the Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY, and his BA in Percussion from Baldwin Wallace University/Conservatory in Berea, Ohio. Music of the African Diaspora and improvisation has become key components of Wimberly’s musical excavations and explorations. He released his latest album, “Afrofuturism,” on the Temple Mountain Record (TMR) in 2021.

We very much look forward to hearing Darren Walker's, Soumya's, and Michael’s reflections at Commencement, and to celebrating the achievements of the class of 2021.

Laura Walker
President

May 6, 2021 | Commencement Dinner Menu Options and COVID Testing

Dear Seniors, 

I know we are in the last weeks of term and we have much to cover for Commencement still. To best manage this we are going to compartmentalize the tasks. Please bear with me and read and respond to my emails. Thank you in advance for your patience and participation. Two items for your attention today:

First, Chef Steve has created a delicious meal for you (and sorry, the menu is top secret—you do need a few good surprises!) and he needs to know your menu preferences asap. Please fill out this short form, which is due Monday, May 10, 2021. 

Second, Dr. Randy needs you to please schedule your COVID tests for Wednesday, May 26, and Friday, May 28 using the CoVerified phone app, or from the CoVerified user portal on the web as soon as possible to better staff the testing site. Please see the instructions below.

On the phone app:

  1. Tap "testing" on the bottom menu
  2. Tap the "plus" icon on the upper right
  3. Tap the beginning and end dates to select a date range of 5/26 to 5/28, and tap "continue"
  4. Tap "student center"
  5. Scroll down to the time slot you prefer and tap it
  6. Tap "book"

On the user portal:

  1. Select "student center" as the test site
  2. Select "COVID PCR test" as the test type
  3. Select the test date
  4. Select the time
  5. Click "schedule appointment

Thank you for your attention. Early next week we’ll tackle your favorite subject—seating assignment requests and then the guest registration process. Note: emails will also go to parents and families regarding this.

Until then, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. 

Sincerely,

Nicole Arrington
Events Manager

 

April 23, 2021 | Order Your Cap and Gown

Dear Seniors, December grads and MFA candidates,

Thank you for your patience and I am going to ask you to extend it once more. We have several logistical pieces for Commencement to get through together. We need to do this step by step.

As a first step, please take a moment to fill out the Cap and Gown Order Form by Monday, April 26, 2021. I know this is short notice but this form is very short and will take less than a minute to complete, and it is essential for timely delivery. 

Next week, you will receive a detailed schedule of events and comprehensive health and safety information. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to send an email

Best, 

Nicole Arrington
Events Manager

April 21, 2021 | A Message from President Walker: Guests at Commencement 

Dear students and families,

Given the progress with vaccinations and the changes in the state of Vermont’s COVID guidelines, I am thrilled to announce that we will be able to allow two vaccinated guests per graduate to attend the conferring of degrees ceremony on Saturday, in person.

Here is a short overview of the main Commencement events:

  • On the evening of Friday, May 28, there will be a formal Senior Dinner for graduates only, followed by our Commencement Addresses, which will be broadcast so all of the Bennington community can watch them simultaneously. There will be additional festivities for our graduates before and after the dinner and speeches. We’ll be in touch with more details, including the ways families will be able to participate.
  • On Saturday May 29 at 10:00 am, we will host the Conferring of Degrees ceremony. Each graduate will be permitted to invite two vaccinated guests to campus. Everyone will be masked and distanced and will adhere to Bennington and Vermont COVID guidelines. We will be in touch later this spring with registration. This event will also be broadcast so family and friends who cannot be on campus can watch our graduates walk across the stage.

We believe this creative solution will allow us to host a truly celebratory and more inclusive event for our deserving graduates while still protecting the health of this community. More detailed information will be shared over the coming weeks.

I know our students are working hard in the last half of their last term at Bennington. I am so proud of you and I am looking forward to celebrating with all of you.

Warmly,

Laura Walker
President

April 7, 2021 | Commencement Planning Update from President Walker

Dear students and families, 

As you know, we have been planning for a hybrid Commencement, with in-person celebrations for the students currently on campus, with virtual options for families and friends. 

Yesterday, the state of Vermont announced changes in guidance for gatherings beginning May 1. We are looking carefully at that guidance and what we will be able to execute on our campus, but we are cautiously optimistic we will be able to invite up to two family members per student to attend the Conferring of Degrees ceremony on Saturday morning. 

More to come by the end of next week.

Warmly,

Laura Walker

President

March 18, 2021 | Student Commencement Working Group Update

Dear Seniors, December Graduates, and MFAs,

As promised I am sharing a short summary from our latest meeting of the student commencement working group. Again, I understand that everyone cannot make the meeting yet may have an interest or opinion of their own graduation.

Please understand that the brevity of this email in no way corresponds to the significance nor scope of the work.

We are currently in process of reviewing the following issues:

Issues Considered:

  • State guidelines. The state has capped outdoor gatherings at 150 attendees. We are still holding at 150 yet considering additional scenarios should guidelines change. Any changes will be communicated on March 31.
  • Safety and equity. We need to keep safety uppermost as a guideline but consider equity as a guiding principle. This remains our guiding principle.
  • Remote students. 28 of the 162 graduates are remote and we want them to be able to participate as best we can. We are currently reviewing all modalities of participation for these students and will circle back.
  • Remote event components. Nearly all events should have a virtual component and the Ceremony should be the same experience as possible for those not attending, creating an interactive experience for both remote students and families and loved ones who cannot attend. We are considering and investigating each component carefully with a baseline of a virtual experience and a goal of interactive experience.
  • Constituencies that participate. Understand other constituencies that participate, which includes the board of trustees who ratify the degrees, the administrators that distribute, the faculty that participate, the staff that work the event, the undergraduates that have worked the event in years past. We are creating plans for each constituency for participation either in person or remotely depending upon the guidelines yet valuing constituent experience.

Suggestions Summarized:

  • Make Friday a senior only event, a moment to share the last meal with the class before graduation. Consider ways to personalize and make it special.
    • With an intimate yet formal senior dinner, addresses possible that eve or moved to the Saturday. This event will likely be Seniors only due to state guidelines, with the possibility to add additional guests from the campus community only as guidelines permit. Friday Senior-only formal dinner has received very positive feedback. I am working with Chef Steve and the Commencement logistics team and working groups to make this a truly special event for seniors and graduates. More soon.
    • Dinner options: progressive dinner format i.e. different tables for different courses of meal with different table guests or food trucks around Commons Lawn. Chef Steve is very excited to create a special formal dinner for our seniors and grads—this is ongoing. More soon.
    • Evening set of events thereafter: bonfire(s), student band/entertainment of some sort that can fit within guidelines, and wish lanterns at dusk. Outdoor photo booth? Think Moonfest rather than Sunfest. A set of evening programming options to consider will be coming shortly.
  • Make Saturday a full Conferring of Degrees ceremony, socially distanced, on the lawn, in the round perhaps. Live Streamed. We are continuing to review and plan for the differing scenarios to make this as successful and enjoyable as possible.

Next Steps:

This week, please talk with family members and caregivers to include them in the planning process in how they might best feel included. I do have ideas, but I would like to hold them back as a pleasant surprise just now.

And, please remember to:

Consider and discuss the elements of these components in the context of the guidelines and values. Send on your ideas to me. Our next meeting will be this Friday to review and finalize therein.

Finally, we are working in the framework of the current CDC and State guidelines. Those may change and we need to be nimble and flexible to that. Indeed, it seems likely and I am meeting with the Covid Task Force on an ongoing basis to help determine how we adjust our framework and these events to meet any such changes—more on this in the next few weeks.

In closing dear seniors, again, I invite you to discuss amongst your peers and forward on any ideas, thoughts and suggestions to me. I cannot promise to deliver on all but I can promise a good faith effort to do all I can to make this the meaningful and memorable moment you deserve.

In the meantime, be safe and well.

Nicole Arrington
Events Manager

March 10, 2021 | Commencement Plans and Working Group Update

Dear Seniors, December Graduates and MFAs,

I wanted to share with you an overview of what was discussed in the Student Commencement Working Group to keep you in the loop. I understand that everyone cannot make the meeting but that many have an interest or opinion of their own graduation.

The conventional components of Commencement are split on two days:

Friday night: Reception and dinner with addresses.
Saturday morning: Conferring of Degrees ceremony followed by a light reception.

Issues Considered:

  • State guidelines. The state has capped outdoor gatherings at 150 attendees.
  • Safety and equity. We need to keep safety uppermost as a guideline but consider equity as a guiding principle.
  • Remote students. 28 of the 162 graduates are remote and we want them to be able to participate as best we can. As such,
  • Remote event components. Nearly all events should have a virtual component and the Ceremony should be the same experience as possible for those not attending, creating an interactive experience for both remote students and families and loved ones who cannot attend.
  • Constituencies that participate. Understand other constituencies that participate, which includes the board of trustees who ratify the degrees, the administrators that distribute, the faculty that participate, the staff that work the event, the undergraduates that have worked the event in years past.

Suggestions Summarized:

  • Make Friday a senior only event, a moment to share the last meal with the class before graduation. Consider ways to personalize and make it special.
    • With an intimate yet formal senior dinner, addresses possible that eve or moved to the Saturday. This event will likely be Seniors only due to state guidelines, with the possibility to add additional guests from the campus community only as guidelines permit.
    • Dinner options: progressive dinner format (different tables for different courses of meal with different table guests) or food trucks around Commons Lawn.
    • Evening set of events thereafter: bonfire(s), student band/entertainment of some sort that can fit within guidelines, and wish lanterns at dusk. Outdoor photo booth? Think Moonfest rather than Sunfest.
  • Make Saturday a full Conferring of Degrees ceremony, socially distanced, on the lawn, in the round perhaps. Live Streamed.

Decisions to be Made:

The essential components are the dinner, addresses, and conferring of degrees ceremony. The resonant components are the sharing of these events with your peers, friends, families, faculty. and community. What is most important? Where can we be flexible whilst observing guidelines and affirming equity and the celebratory signature of the moment?

Next Steps:

Consider and discuss the elements of these components in the context of the guidelines and values. Send on your ideas to me. Our next meeting will be this Friday to review and finalize therein.

Finally, we are working in the framework of the current CDC and State guidelines. Those may change and we need to be nimble and flexible to that
Indeed, it seems likely and I am meeting with the Covid Task Force on an ongoing basis to help determine how we adjust our framework and these events to meet any such changes—more on this in the next few weeks.

In closing dear seniors, I invite you to discuss amongst your peers and forward on any ideas, thoughts and suggestions to me. I cannot promise to deliver on all but I can promise a good faith effort to do all I can to make this a meaningful and memorable moment you deserve.

More soon,

Nicole Arrington
Events Manager

February 25, 2021 | Commencement Student Working Group

Dear Seniors, December Graduates, and MFAs,

I am the event manager that oversees Commencement and most of the other major institutional events each year. As you all know so keenly, this past year has been like no other. I know I am sending this email on the heels of President’s Walker’s announcement about your Commencement. I can imagine your sense of disappointment, and perhaps even grief, of not having a Commencement that you and your families envisioned, wanted, or deserve. And as I say I am so sorry for this, I promise you that our entire team and I will put together the best celebration we can to make this still a moment that is meaningful and memorable for you.

With that said, I invite those of you that are interested to participate in a working group on Commencement. And even as I invite you into this process, I do want to be sensitive to not give you work to ‘create your own commencement’ but rather an opportunity to understand the thinking and share in the planning. Please know—it’s not necessary to participate, and that we will take over all management thereafter.

Here’s what I am thinking this working group will look like:

  • A weekly meeting on Zoom for an hour for a period of 3 weeks, i.e. 3 one-hour meetings;
  • We will identify components, values, and mediums for modifying each Commencement event;
  • If there is any homework at all, it might be independent casual discussion among your peers, otherwise all else will remain in the hour allotted;
  • Others in the working group will be a select group of staff that work with me and you on Commencement to help form our decision making.

A note on timeline: I imagine we will have a fully-formed plan for Commencement that we will report on to the class of 2021, your families, the administration, and board of trustees no later than March 30. Indeed, that is our hard deadline.

Next steps: Please reply via email letting me know of your interest. And whilst I know this won’t work for everyone’s schedule this seems to be the best time to suggest to meet: Friday, March 5 at 12:30 PM EST.

So looking forward to working with you.

In the meantime, be safe and well.

Nicole Arrington
Events Manager

 

February 25, 2021 | An Update From President Walker Regarding Commencement 2021

Dear parents and families of the class of 2021,

Please see the message below that was shared with graduates today. We know that Commencement is top of mind for you and your family, as it is for all of us. This is why we are sharing this information with you now, while it is still in development. We expect that plans will be finalized by March 30, at which time we will be back in touch with more details.

Sincerely, 

Laura Walker
President

Dear Class of 2021,

Congratulations on beginning your final term at Bennington! Hopefully you are settling into your classes and advanced work, the culmination of four years of effort and discovery. I’m writing to give you an update on our planning for the end of this term: your commencement.  

Like each of you, I had hoped that by May, we would be preparing for a full in-person celebration with your classmates, family, and friends as we have done in years past. Sadly, the public health risks of such an event are too great. It appears unlikely today that new COVID-19 infections will be significantly curtailed by spring, nor will we have a critical mass of Americans vaccinated by then. Further, State of Vermont COVID-19 rules prohibit large gatherings at this time and we cannot know if or when those rules might change. As such, we will need to modify this event significantly to comply with state guidelines and our commitment to community safety.

However, we also know how important it is for our graduates to be able to walk together as a class and to receive your diplomas. Given how seriously all members of the Bennington community have taken the pandemic prevention and the current Vermont state guidelines, we believe we can safely host an in-person Commencement ceremony and celebration just for our graduates. 

Unfortunately, this means guests will not be able to be invited to campus. I know it is disappointing to not be able to welcome parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends to see you walk in person. I share your frustration, and I can tell you, if there was any way around these challenges that didn’t imperil the College or its people, we would do so. We will be looking for ways for families and friends to celebrate with you, from a distance.

We want to work with students to develop the details of these events to both accommodate social distancing requirements and create something that is meaningful, poignant, and befitting of your accomplishments.

I am confident that we can craft a commencement that feels meaningful, memorable, and connected. Your day will be unlike all others that came before it, but it will be heartfelt and memorable—and still yours. If you are interested in playing a role in the planning, please email event manager Nicole Arrington. An email from Nicole with full details for participation will follow this one.

Class of 2021, we are thinking of you and planning for your big day. 

I wish you the best,

Laura Walker
President

Class of 2020 Commencement Update 

For information about additional celebrations for the class of 2020, please refer to this message, which was shared with the graduating class on February 25, 2021. If you are a member of the class of 2020 and did not receive this message, please contact commencement@bennington.edu to be added to the mailing list. 

line drawing of a line of rocks with mountains in the background

Commencement History 

Past Coverage

Past Commencement Speakers

  • 2020 | Nigel Poor ’86
  • 2019 | Mountain Man (Molly Erin Sarlé ’12, Amelia Meath ’10, and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig ’09)
  • 2018 | Liz Lerman
  • 2017 | Cornell William Brooks
  • 2016 | Jane Chu
  • 2015 | Gloria Steinem
  • 2014 | Dr. Johnnetta Cole
  • 2013 | Elizabeth Coleman
  • 2012 | Peter Dinklage ’91
  • 2011 | Tim Daly ’79
  • 2010 | Melissa Rosenberg ’86
  • 2009 | Hendrick Hertzberg
  • 2008 | Rebecca Tinsley
  • 2007 | Mac Maharaj
  • 2006 | Glen Van Brummelen
  • 2005 | Jonathan Lethem ’86
  • 2004 | Shirin Ebadi
  • 2003 | Edith Velmans
  • 2002 | Meredith Monk
  • 2001 | Rick Moody
  • 2000 | Gay McDougall ’69
  • 1999 | Peter Hedges
  • 1998 | Linda Wertheimer
  • 1997 | Jane Alexander
  • 1996 | Mark Gearan
  • 1995 | Irene Borger ’71
  • 1994 | Harvey Lichtenstein ’53
  • 1993 | Kay Crawford Murray ’56
  • 1992 | Harvey Fierstein
  • 1991 | Harvey Gantt
  • 1990 | Joan Tower ’61
  • 1989 | Ellen McCulloch-Lovell ’69
  • 1988 | Elizabeth Frank ’67
  • 1987 | Barbara Lazear Ascher ’68
  • 1986 | Tillie Olsen
  • 1985 | Elizabeth Swados ’73
  • 1984 | Howard Nemerov
  • 1983 | Frederick Wiseman
  • 1982 | Joseph S. Murphy
  • 1981 | Bernard Malamud
  • 1980 | Elizabeth Swados ’73
  • 1979 | Vivian Gornick
  • 1978 | Mitchell Markowitz ’75
  • 1977 | Elizabeth Holtzman
  • 1976 | Joseph S. Iseman
  • 1975 | Carol Channing ’42
  • 1974 | Thomas Brockway
  • 1973 | Senior readings and performance
  • 1972 | Jimmy Garrison
  • 1971 | Anaïs Nin
  • 1970 | Kurt Vonnegut
  • 1969 | Denise Levertov
  • 1968 | Thomas P.F. Hoving
  • 1967 | Russell Baker
  • 1966 | Howard Nemerov
  • 1965 | Gene Baro
  • 1964 | William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
  • 1963 | David Riesman
  • 1962 | Kenneth Burke
  • 1961 | Henri Peyre
  • 1960 | Francis Fergusson
  • 1959 | George Boas
  • 1958 | Jacques Barzun
  • 1957 | Alvin Eurich
  • 1956 | Howard M. Jones
  • 1955 | W. Averell Harriman P ’40
  • 1954 | Franklin Ford
  • 1953 | Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
  • 1952 | Harry Allen Overstreet
  • 1951 | Mary Josephine Shelly
  • 1950 | Reinhold Niebuhr
  • 1949 | Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey
  • 1948 | Erich Fromm
  • 1947 | Lewis Webster Jones
  • 1946 | Reinhold Niebuhr
  • 1945 | Justice Frank Murphy
  • 1944 | Alexander Meiklejohn
  • 1943 | Robert D. Leigh
  • 1942 | William Batt
  • 1941 | Robert Lynd
  • 1940 | Henry Wallace
  • 1939 | Dorothy Canfield Fischer
  • 1938 | Frederick Lewis Allen
  • 1937 | W.H. Kilpatrick
  • 1936 | No commencement speaker