The front of the academic procession passes McGraw Tower during Commencement 2023

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A glorious Ithaca day set the stage for ceremonies honoring the accomplishments of the Big Red’s newest alums

By Joe Wilensky

Picture-perfect weather—replete with sunny skies and moderately warm temperatures—smiled on Cornell’s 155th graduating class on Memorial Day Weekend, as 3,900 undergraduates and nearly 5,000 graduate and professional students received their degrees.

As in recent years, the festivities were split into two consecutive ceremonies, with graduates and their families attending one or the other according to their college or school.

Professor Emeritus David Lee, President Martha Pollack, and others lead the academic procession out of Schoellkopf Stadium following the Commencement ceremony
President Pollack leads the procession out of the stadium.

Of course, both featured the traditional academic procession from the Arts Quad onto Schoellkopf Field, with grads, faculty, and staff in full regalia.

Members of the Class of 2023—most of whom had their first year interrupted by the pandemic—heard a heartfelt message from President Martha Pollack, who likened their journey to that taken by the heroine of The Wizard of Oz.

“And like Dorothy, you kept going,” she said, “even as you met challenges along the way—some of which you’d never imagined.”

An aerial view of the Commencement ceremony from above Schoellkopf field.
A drone’s-eye view of Schoellkopf.

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The annual PhD recognition ceremony was held in Barton Hall later that afternoon, as Kathryn Boor ’80, dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education, and others honored the nearly 350 new recipients of the Ithaca campus’s highest academic degree.

Commencement Weekend also included the ROTC commissioning ceremony in Statler Auditorium, with 26 graduates (21 from Cornell and five from nearby institutions) receiving commissions and officially beginning their military careers.

Of particular note: Claudia Pietrus ’23 became the first Cornell ROTC member to be commissioned into the U.S. Space Force.

Commencement ’23: A Big Red photo album

And during Senior Convocation in Barton Hall, the grads were entertained by the Big Red Band, student dance groups, and more. This year’s speaker—as always, chosen by the senior class—was actor, comedian, and physician Ken Jeong, known for such films as The Hangover and the TV series “Community.”

“You can’t predict where life is going to go, so you have to be open to possibilities,” he said. “Be fearless, be adaptable. That is my challenge to you.”

Top: The procession passes McGraw Tower. (All images in this story by Cornell University photographers Lindsay France, Noël Heaney, Sreang Hok, Jason Koski, and Ryan Young.)

Published June 2, 2023

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