May 22, 2009

AMHERST, Mass. — On Sunday, May 24, Amherst College will celebrate its 188th commencement at 10 a.m. on the school’s Main Quadrangle. The exercises will feature addresses from college president Anthony W. Marx and senior Marshall Nannes, as well as the awarding of bachelor of arts degrees to 419 graduates and honorary degrees to eight distinguished guests. The honorands include Margaret Bangser ’81, founder and former director of the nonprofit Women’s Dignity organization, who will receive a doctorate of humane letters; Peter Brown, the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University, who will receive a doctorate  of humane letters; former Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III ’71, now president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, who will receive a doctorate of laws; conductor and pianist Leon Fleisher, who will receive a doctorate of music; researcher and Columbia University professor Andrew R. Marks ’76, who will receive a doctorate of science; entrepreneur Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and SpaceX, who will receive a doctorate of humane letters; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of the World Bank, who will receive a doctorate of humane letters; and abstract artist Frank Stella, who will receive a doctorate of humane letters.

Here is some more information about Amherst’s Class of 2009 and the college’s commencement weekend.

•    Nations and states represented by this year’s seniors: 21 countries (including Bulgaria, France, Guatemala, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Poland and Singapore), 33 states and Washington, D.C.

•    Top five most declared majors: Economics, English, psychology, political science and biology.

•    Students elected into the college’s chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest undergraduate academic honors organization in the U.S.: 41.

•    Theses completed by members of the Class of 2009: 220.

•    National award winners: As of Thursday, May 21, at least eight seniors had been awarded prestigious national fellowships or assistantships for international study or instruction. Four received J. William Fulbright Fellowships for study and teaching abroad (in addition to three alumni), three were given French Government Teaching Assistantships, and one was honored with a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship supporting a year of independent study and travel abroad.

•    Seniors whose mother or father (or both) attended Amherst: 51.

•    Employers of the new graduates: Massachusetts Audubon Society, Poverty Action Lab, Metropolitan Museum of Art, government of the Republic of Singapore, Infosys Consulting, U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Project Horseshoe Farm, Massachusetts General Hospital, Goldman Sachs, Teach for America, the U.S. Forest Service and Cravath, Swaine & Moore, among many organizations. Even in this challenging economic climate, members of the Class of 2009 are finding jobs, enrolling in graduate school programs, volunteering for nonprofits and taking the world by storm.

•    Amount raised for the Class of 2009’s parting gift to the college, a donation to the Annual Fund: $13,633. $10,000 of that total is from an anonymous individual who would only give the money once 80 percent of the class had contributed; 82.2 percent of seniors have donated so far.

•   Meals served on campus during commencement weekend: An estimated 5,500. The spread for all of the activities calls for 1,700 smoked turkey wraps, 500 vegetable wraps, 500 pounds of Southwestern corn and chicken salad, eight gallons of hummus, 2,400 pieces of Tuscan chicken, 800 pounds of vegan tortellini with roasted vegetables and 1,200 pounds of fresh fruit salad, among other goodies.

•   Seats for graduation spectators: 5,000. That’s in addition to the 2,600 chairs and 300 tables that Amherst’s building and grounds crew arranges in front of Valentine Dining Hall for meals.

•   Commemorative canes awarded during the weekend: 432. After being given his or her diploma, each of this year’s 419 graduate receives a cane, which is part of an Amherst tradition dating back to the 1800s that was revived and reshaped by the Class of 2003. The Senior Class Cane is meant to serve as a visual metaphor for their college education, according to Amherst lore: It supports graduates throughout their lives after leaving the college’s hallowed halls. The canes the seniors will receive on May 24 feature a small plaque with the class year, copied from an 1800s-era glee club program from Amherst’s archives. But they’re not the only ones walking away with canes: This year’s eight honorands, three recipients of the college’s Swift Moore Teaching Awards, the winner of the Medal for Eminent Service and the honorary marshal all receive the sticks as well.

•   Diplomas personally signed by Amherst President Anthony W. Marx: 419.

•   Hours spent by the staff of the college’s registrar’s office rolling and affixing ribbon to every diploma by hand: About 25.

•   Estimated amount of hand sanitizer available across campus: 3 gallons. The college is providing the antibacterial, waterless gels in two-, four- and eight-ounce containers and in dispensers in an effort to stem the spread of influenza germs. There will even be a dispenser on the stage at commencement for graduates who wish to disinfect their hands before receiving their diplomas.

•    Graduates, friends and family members spending the weekend in the town of Amherst: Approximately 5,000.