Commencement Week

While graduation celebrations are common occurrences at the conclusion of most schools' academic year, Princeton's tradition may be unique: it celebrates Commencement Week.

Reunions

The "week" begins on a Thursday, the first day of Reunions. Reunions are for alumni, but members of the senior class are invited as guests of the University, a nod to their imminent passing into the ranks of alumni. On Saturday of Reunions, the senior class joins the P-rade, which ends when the class marches onto Poe Field and is welcomed with exuberant applause.

Baccalaureate and Step Sing

Sunday brings Baccalaureate in the University Chapel, an interfaith program with music, prayers, readings and a guest speaker, chosen by Princeton's president after consultation with senior class leaders. The Senior Class Step Sing, which takes place on Sunday evening, has been a part of the traditional senior celebration for more than a century. It is an informal event, led by seniors, in which class members and their guests participate. Songs are chosen by the senior class to reflect their Princeton experience. Class jackets are worn.

Class Day

Class Day takes place Monday morning on Cannon Green, behind Nassau Hall. This event is planned and presented by members of the senior class. The program includes the awarding of various prizes to classmates, student speeches, honorary class member inductions, a review of the class history, and remarks by the Princeton president and a guest speaker who is chosen by members of the senior class and is frequently a celebrity or noted political figure.

Hooding

The Hooding Ceremony also takes place on Cannon Green, later on Monday afternoon. At this event, advanced-degree candidates receive their hoods, an essential element of traditional academic regalia that denotes by its length the level of degree received and by its trim the academic discipline and the college or university from which the degree was granted. The hoods are generally bestowed by the Dean of the Graduate School. Starting in 2015, recipients could choose to be hooded by their adviser, and more than 100 advanced-degree candidates elected to do so that year.

Commencement

Commencement itself takes place on the lawn in front of Nassau Hall on Tuesday morning. This program includes brief speeches by the salutatorian and the valedictorian; the awarding of degrees to undergraduate and graduate students; the conferral of teaching awards to several New Jersey high school teachers and Princeton faculty; and the conferral of honorary degrees. It is a tradition of long-standing that the Commencement speaker is the president of the University.

Commencement Week Speakers

Below is a list of Commencement Week speakers from 2001 through 2016. For more information about Commencement Week speakers as well as select videos, visit the blog post from Mudd Library. For a list of honorary degree recipients through the years, visit Facts & Figures.

2016

  • Baccalaureate - Randall Kennedy '77
  • Class Day -  Jodi Picoult '87
  • Commencement - Christopher L. Eisgruber '83

2015

  • Baccalaureate – Lisa P. Jackson *86
  • Class Day – Christopher Nolan
  • Commencement – Christopher L. Eisgruber '83

2014

  • Baccalaureate – Christopher Lu '88
  • Class Day – Al Gore
  • Commencement – Christopher L. Eisgruber '83

2013

  • Baccalaureate – Ben Bernanke
  • Class Day – David Remnick '81
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2012

  • Baccalaureate – Michael Lewis '82
  • Class Day – Steve Carell
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2011

  • Baccalaureate – Michael Bloomberg
  • Class Day – Brooke Shields '87
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2010

  • Baccalaureate – Jeff Bezos '86
  • Class Day – Charles Gibson '65
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2009

  • Baccalaureate – General David Petraeus *85 *87
  • Class Day – Katie Couric
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2008

  • Baccalaureate – Paul Farmer
  • Class Day – Stephen Colbert
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2007

  • Baccalaureate – John Fleming *63
  • Class Day – Bradley Whitford
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2006

  • Baccalaureate – David Sedaris
  • Class Day – William J. Clinton
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2005

  • Baccalaureate – Toni Morrison
  • Class Day – Chevy Chase
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2004

  • Baccalaureate – James McPherson
  • Class Day – Jon Stewart
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2003

  • Baccalaureate – Fred Hargadon
  • Class Day – Jerry Seinfeld
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2002

  • Baccalaureate – Meg Whitman'77
  • Class Day – James Baker '52
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

2001

  • Baccalaureate – Emma Bloomberg
  • Class Day – Bill Cosby
  • Commencement – Shirley M. Tilghman

Information about Commencement Week speakers prior to 2001 is available in a blog post from Mudd Library.