Graduating College of Veterinary Medicine graduates, inflated exam gloves in hand, jump in the air during Commencement 2024 ceremonies in Schoellkopf Stadium

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By Beth Saulnier

On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, friends, family, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and others filled Schoellkopf Stadium to celebrate the guests of honor: the more than 8,000 members of Cornell's 156th graduating class.

Commencement 2024 began under brilliantly sunny skies—and while there was rain on the horizon later in the day, the weather (and the University's traditional meteorological luck) held out.

Stage view of the Ph.D. hooding ceremony as part of Commencement 2024 events
The PhD recognition ceremony in Barton Hall.

In recent years, the event has been divided into two ceremonies, allowing more space for loved ones to attend.

So, in two batches—one in the morning, the other in the early afternoon—the graduates processed from the Arts Quad to Schoellkopf, amid cheers and the hoisting of innumerable cell phone cameras.

The event marked a milestone not only for the newly minted alumni, but for President Martha Pollack herself: it was her final Commencement speech before her upcoming retirement at the end of June.

Aerial view of Schoellkopf Stadium during Commencement 2024 ceremonies
A drone's-eye view of the festivities.

“Clear values are a north star, in life and in leadership: casting light on complex situations, and guiding your decisions when the way forward is anything but obvious,” she told the graduates.

“But just as a clear set of values will help you to navigate your lives, you’ll also, throughout your lives, need to navigate your values. Because deeply felt values can come into tension with each other—and indeed, in any full and richly lived life, they will."

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The Saturday ceremonies were the culmination of the Commencement-related festivities held throughout May.

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They included the Lavender Graduation earlier in the month, celebrating the accomplishments of grads who identify as LGBTQ+; the traditional Senior Week fun; the recognition ceremony for recipients of doctorates, the highest academic degrees the University confers; the ROTC commissioning ceremony; and Senior Convocation, whose speaker is invited by the graduating class.

This year's address was given by actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who has appeared in such films as Marvel's The Eternals and in the TV show "Silicon Valley."

Comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani addresses Cornell students at Senior Convocation in Barton Hall as part of Commencement 2024
Nanjiani speaks to the Class of ’24.

Also a screenwriter, Nanjiani was nominated for a best original screenplay Oscar for the 2018 semi-autobiographical comedy-drama The Big Sick.

“Lead with kindness and empathy. It’s the best weapon in our fight to make the world better,” he said.

“If you are the recipient of kindness and sensitivity, acknowledge it. Find them, tell them, thank them—you will never regret it.”

(Top: DVM grads—with their traditional, inflated large-animal exam gloves—jump for joy. All images by Cornell University photographers Alex Bayer, Noël Heaney, Sreang Hok, Jason Koski, and Ryan Young.)

Published May 29, 2024


  1. Randall Nixon, Class of 1978

    As much as I enjoyed my graduation day in 1978, the graduations of my children, classes of ’11 and ’15, were among the happiest days of my life. It was always my aspiration for at least one of my children to attend Cornell, and I got the double gift of seeing both of them walk across the stage.

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