The Stars of Commencement

Dear Tulane Community,

I hope you enjoyed last week’s special "View From Gibson" by President for a Day, Tara Goolsby, as much as I did. Tara and her fellow students are now nearing the end of their final exams. Let’s wish all of them inspiration, knowledge, insight, wisdom and – why not – a little luck as they complete these tests.

For some 2,800 of our students, these finals are the last hurdle before we celebrate their academic achievements in front of thousands of adoring fans at Commencement 2017. This year’s Commencement will feature Academy-Award winner Helen Mirren, jazz great Branford Marsalis, civil rights leader Diane Nash and pioneering psychologist Shelley Taylor, but the real stars of the day are the members of the Class of 2017.

These amazing graduates include Jessica Conrad, a math and public health major who not only learned from books but helped write one. Her work in mathematical modeling behavior change during the Ebola outbreak was published in the textbook, Mathematical and Statistical Modeling for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.

There is also Christy Smith, a gender and sexuality and homeland security studies double major who will graduate with her guide dog, Bramble, at her side. Marshall Wadleigh, a finance major whose hard work earned him a 4.0 grade point average and a football scholarship, will be among the graduates, too.

Hard work was something engrained into environmental earth science major James Leon, but higher education was something he thought unattainable until the Posse Foundation and Tulane gave him a chance. Now this son of a Mexican immigrant will put his degree to work through Teach for America and inspire others to realize their dreams.

These are just a few examples of the quality, energy and achievement that typify this year’s graduates. I could go on forever telling the extraordinary stories of this year’s class, but you will just have to see for yourself at next week’s Commencement. It will be a celebration like none other for a class like none other.