Trinity’s 189th Commencement to Be Held Sunday on Main Quadrangle

Civil Rights Leader James Lawson Will Address Graduates, Faculty, and Guests

HARTFORD, CT, May 14, 2015 - In a ceremony that is revered for its pomp, pageantry, and historical significance, 552 students are expected to receive their degrees on Sunday, May 17, before family members and other guests gathered on Trinity College’s Main Quadrangle.

The academic procession will begin at 10:50 a.m. as the students continue the tradition of stepping on the Luther-Roosevelt Long Walk stone in front of the Fuller Arch at Northam Towers. The stone’s inscription commemorates the visit in 1918 by then-President Theodore Roosevelt, who received an honorary degree that year. Soon after the stone was laid in 1919, students began the tradition of never 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 the last of the diplomas, prizes, and awards have been presented. Among those graduating, 379 undergraduates will receive B.A. degrees, 145 will be awarded B.S. degrees, and 28 graduate students will receive master’s degrees.

Trinity’s Commencement speaker, the Reverend James Morris Lawson, Jr., who is one of the most renowned advocates for nonviolence in American history, was described by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., as the “leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.” TIME magazine identified Lawson as one of seven icons of the civil rights movement.

The Reverend James Morris Lawson, Jr.
In 1960, Lawson was the architect of a plan to desegregate downtown Nashville, leading workshops to prepare participants for the nonviolent campaign, and he was instrumental in founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He wrote the SNCC’s statement of purpose and delivered the keynote speech at the organization’s founding meeting in April 1960. During the 1960s, Lawson was a mentor to King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a volunteer for campaigns in cities across the South.

Lawson moved to Los Angeles in 1974 to lead Holman United Methodist Church, serving as pastor until his retirement in 1999. During the last 15 years, Lawson has continued to work for justice and civil rights for all people and has served as a visiting lecturer at several institutions, including Harvard Divinity School and UCLA. At age 86, he continues to travel the country to champion social justice and nonviolence.

Lawson will receive an honorary doctor of divinity degree in recognition of his life’s work as a leader for justice, peace, and equality.

Honorary degrees also will be presented to Trinity alumna JoAnne A. Epps, dean of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law; Trinity alumnus Jon A. Reynolds, U.S. Air Force brigadier general, retired; and George Allen Weiss, the founder of Say Yes to Education.

Epps will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree for her significant contributions to the legal profession, to legal education, and to her alma mater; Reynolds will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree for his distinguished service to his country, his exemplary career with Raytheon, and his dedication to Trinity; and Weiss will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree for his transformative educational philanthropy and his devotion to providing opportunities for at-risk youth.

The valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2015 will be named. In addition, 24 undergraduates have earned the designation summa cum laude, 22 have earned the designation magna cum laude, and 41 have earned the designation cum laude. Fourteen graduate students earned the designation “honors.”

Also, the Trinity College Trustee Awards for Faculty, Student, and Staff Excellence will be announced, as will two awards for exemplary teaching: the Thomas Church Brownell Prize, which goes to a senior faculty member, and the Arthur H. Hughes Award for Teaching Achievement, which is given to a junior faculty member.

Following the ceremony, a reception will be held on the soccer field, where President Joanne Berger-Sweeney and 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. However, in the event of extreme weather conditions, the ceremony will be moved to the Koeppel Community Sports Center at 175 New Britain Avenue. Seating will be limited to four guest tickets per graduate.

If such a move is necessary, details will be communicated by 7:00 a.m. Sunday. A notice will be posted on the College's website at For friends and family members who cannot get into Koeppel, the ceremony may be viewed at these campus locations: Cinestudio in the Clement Chemistry Building; McCook Auditorium; Boyer Auditorium in the Albert C. Jacobs Life Sciences Center; Vernon Social; and the Washington Room in Mather Hall.

In addition, the ceremony can be viewed online via live stream here.

For more information about Trinity’s 189th Commencement, please click here.