Wesleyan University commemorated its 175th
anniversary of its institutional charter during the 174th Commencement
Ceremony on Sunday, May 28. Wesleyan’s charter was granted on May 26, 1831.
Undergraduate degrees were conferred on 742 students. In addition, nine
students received Ph.Ds, 29 students were awarded master’s degrees, and 64
Graduate of Liberate Studies degrees were conferred.
Video clips of Wesleyan's 174th Commencement
can be found at:
In his commencement address Wesleyan President Douglas J. Bennet reflected
on the long and storied history of the institution and said this class had
made its mark as undergraduates and will continue to do so in the future.
"You have shown that you will be part of the solutions," Bennet said. "I know
this because of your responses to Katrina, to the Indian Ocean tsunami, to
the genocide in Darfur, and to your Middletown neighbors. Where existing
institutions seem not to be getting the job done, you have created new
not-for-profit organizations to foster everything from micro-credit in Nepal
to nonpartisan debate on global issues in America."
John Hope Franklin, professor of history, emeritus at Duke University gave
the principal address. An internationally-renowned historian, intellectual
leader and lifelong civil rights activist, Franklin has served on the
National Council on the Humanities, as well as the President's Advisory
Commissions on Public Diplomacy and on Ambassadorial Appointments.
Franklin's numerous publications include The Emancipation Proclamation, The
Militant South, and From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans.
Franklin has received honorary degrees from more than 100 colleges and
Franklin exhorted students to put action behind words that were spoken
during the last presidential election, especially in the area of education.
"Not long ago, a victorious presidential candidate said during his victory
speech that for the next four years his agenda would be ‘putting people
first.’ I am not persuaded that this was his watchword for the ensuing four
years, but I sincerely hope that ‘putting people first’ will be your
resolution for a much, much longer period of time," Hope-Franklin said. "It
is difficult to imagine, for example, a situation where our schools could be
worse than they are at present. It has been a source of great embarrassment
for our schools at all levels to rank far below the standards that a great
nation can reasonably expect to maintain. And it is equally embarrassing to
discover that most of the nation's educational system could well be
designated a disaster area…This need not be. What better way for you who
graduate today to make a proper beginning than to make a solemn resolve to
rescue our schools from their present degraded status, and thus assist in
providing our students with the opportunity for a better start in life."
Wesleyan also awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Mary O.
McWilliams '71, president of Regence BlueShield, pioneering alumna and
McWilliams '71 previously served as president of PacifiCare of Washington
where she converted the provider network into groups, expanded statewide,
and launched Secure Horizons as a Medicare-Risk plan. She also served as
founding chief executive officer for the Sisters of Providence Health Plans
in Oregon. She received a bachelor's degree in American studies from
Wesleyan awarded the Baldwin Medal to Jean Shaw P‘79 and Biff Shaw ‘51,
P’79. It is the highest honor given by Wesleyan’s Alumni Association. The
medal is named for Raymond E. Baldwin, a 1916 Wesleyan alumnus who served as
a Connecticut Senator, Governor and Chief of the State Supreme Court.
As an alumni leader, Biff Shaw’s diligent effort on behalf of Wesleyan
underscores his commitment to public service. Jean Shaw has served Wesleyan
since 1969 in many roles including director of the Center for the Arts,
coordinator for exhibitions, events manger and coordinator of University
Lectures. She has worked to enrich the relationship between Wesleyan and
Middletown, played a key role as Reunion and Commencement coordinator and
oversaw the joining of Reunion and Commencement into one weekend.
To view President Bennet's full speech, visit
To view John Hope Franklin's full speech
To view additional images of R&C weekend,