Trinity College’s 191st Commencement To Be Held Sunday, May 21

Philosopher and Cognitive Scientist Daniel Dennett To Be Featured Speaker

​Hartford, Connecticut, May 18, 2017 – In a ceremony revered for its pomp, pageantry, and historical significance, 581 undergraduates – Trinity College’s largest graduating class ever – are expected to receive their bachelor’s degrees on Sunday, May 21, before family members and other guests gathered on Trinity’s Main Quadrangle for the school’s 191st Commencement.

The academic procession will begin at 10:50 a.m. as the students continue the tradition of stepping on the Luther-Roosevelt stone on the Long Walk in front of the Fuller Arch at Northam Towers. The stone’s inscription commemorates the visit in 1918 by former President Theodore Roosevelt, who received an honorary degree that year. Soon after the stone was laid in 1919, students began the tradition of not walking on the stone before Commencement day, fearing that to do so would in some way prevent their graduation.

The Commencement ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. and continue until approximately 1:30 p.m., when the last of the diplomas, prizes, and awards have been presented. Among those graduating, 367 undergraduates will receive B.A. degrees, 214 will be awarded B.S. degrees, and 34 graduate students will receive master’s degrees. Included among the undergraduate degree recipients are 27 Individualized Degree Program (IDP) students.

Daniel C. Dennett.
Photo by Juan Alonso, Tufts University.
Philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist Daniel C. Dennett will be the Commencement speaker. The co-director of Tufts University’s Center for Cognitive Studies, as well as University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts, Dennett is well-known for his theories on the mind-body connection explaining that free will and human consciousness are based on physical processes in the brain. A 1963 graduate of Harvard University with a B.A. in philosophy, Dennett completed a D.Phil. in philosophy at the University of Oxford under the supervision of British philosopher Gilbert Ryle. He has been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The author of best-selling books such as Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Dennett’s most recent work is From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. Dubbed one of the Four Horsemen of Atheism, Dennett is also noted for his role in the New Atheist movement. He is the 2012 recipient of the Erasmus Prize, the Netherlands’s highest prize, an annual award given by the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation to individuals or institutions that have made exceptional contributions to culture, society, or social science in Europe and the rest of the world; the 2011 Mind and Brain Prize, granted by the Center for Cognitive Science of Turin in Torino, Italy, in recognition of outstanding achievement in advancing knowledge about mind and brain in the field of cognitive science; and the American Philosophical Association’s 2004 Barwise Prize, bestowed for significant and sustained contributions to areas relevant to philosophy and computing.

Dennett will be awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in recognition of his distinguished career as a philosopher and a cognitive scientist and of his enormous contributions to the world of thought.

Honorary degrees also will be presented to Trinity alumni D. David Dershaw ’70, the founding director of the Breast Imaging Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and LaTanya Langley ’97, vice president and general counsel of BIC International Company.

Dershaw will receive an honorary doctor of science degree in recognition of his groundbreaking contributions to the field of health care, particularly in the battle against breast cancer. Langley will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree in recognition of her extraordinary accomplishments in her professional endeavors in the field of law and her commitment to her Connecticut hometown of Norwalk, where she has volunteered her service with several civic and nonprofit entities.

Graduating senior Doug Curtin has been selected to be the Commencement ceremony’s student speaker. A double major in political science and educational studies, Curtin was instrumental in starting a Trinity chapter of the Food Recovery Network, delivering excess food from the College’s dining hall to Hartford’s McKinney Shelter. Curtin, who is from Wayland, Massachusetts, has been a member of Trinity’s varsity swim team all four years, serving as team captain for two years. He has held internships with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and with Connecticut State Senator Beth Bye.

The valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2017 will be named. In addition, 40 undergraduates have earned the designation summa cum laude, 36 have earned the designation magna cum laude, and 50 have earned the designation cum laude. Eighteen graduate students earned the designation “honors.”

Also, the Trinity College Trustee Awards for Faculty, Student, and Staff Excellence will be announced, as will additional awards for exemplary teaching – the Thomas Church Brownell Prize for Teaching Excellence, which goes to a senior faculty member, and the Dean Arthur H. Hughes Award for Achievement in Teaching, which is given to a junior faculty member – and for outstanding research: the Charles A. Dana Research Professorships.

Following the ceremony, a reception will be held on the soccer field, where President Joanne Berger-Sweeney; her husband, Urs V. Berger; and members of the Board of Trustees will congratulate the graduates and their guests.

Commencement will be held rain or shine on the Main Quadrangle. In the event of extreme weather conditions, the ceremony will be moved to the Koeppel Community Sports Center at 175 New Britain Avenue. Indoor seating is limited.

If such a move is necessary, details will be communicated by 7:00 a.m. Sunday. A notice will be posted at For those who do not get seating in Koeppel, the ceremony may be viewed at these campus locations: Boyer Auditorium in the Albert C. Jacobs Life Sciences Center, Cinestudio in the Clement Chemistry Building, Goodwin Theater in the Austin Arts Center, McCook Auditorium in the McCook Academic Building, Vernon Social, and the Washington Room in Mather Hall.

For more information about Trinity’s 191st Commencement and to view the ceremony online via live stream, please visit:

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To watch a video featuring five members of the Class of 2017 as they reflect on their time at Trinity and their futures after they graduate, click here.