Archive for Monday, May 20, 1996


May 20, 1996


Chancellor Robert Hemenway says the highlight of KU's commencement occurred before a word was spoken.

More than 4,000 black-clad Kansas University graduates walked the walk.

After marching Sunday from the Campanile into Memorial Stadium, members of the class of 1996 left the talking to officials and guests.

Chancellor Robert Hemenway, presiding at his first KU commencement, said the new graduates got it right.

He said the 50-minute cascade of degree recipients down sidewalks lined with family and friends made KU's commencement unique and memorable -- not speeches from dignitaries about the kaleidoscope of challenges, opportunities and responsibilities awaiting graduates.

"The walk is the ceremony," Hemenway said of the 72-year-old ritual procession. "The walk is a way for a large public university to put a human face on a commencement ceremony."

An estimated 50,000 people convened for KU's 124th commencement exercise. The temperature was in the high 80s. Clouds and a breeze prevented the weather from becoming oppressive.

Hemenway, speaking on the 33rd anniversary of earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska, said he was delighted with KU's graduating class. About 4,000 finished this spring and 2,225 did last summer or fall.

The chancellor candidly admitted that few graduates paid attention to commencement speakers. In fact, Hemenway doesn't have a clue who delivered words of wisdom to his Husker classmates in 1963.

However, he urged the '96 grads to keep one thought in mind.

"As you celebrate, remember the people who helped you arrive here -- the friends who sustained you, the family who supported you, the faculty who challenged you and the staff who made you feel like KU was home."

"Don't ever forget those human faces," Hemenway said.

Lawrence physician John Hiebert, chairman of the state higher education board with jurisdiction over KU, exhorted the graduates to make education a lifelong endeavor.

"In the Jayhawk tradition, I expect you will to continue to grow," said Hiebert, a KU graduate. "Your education is not finished."

Hiebert, whose remarks were interrupted by a military fly-over, said a university degree was a private and public good.

"Channel some of your energy, passion and intelligence for resolution of significant social and human problems this society faces," he said.

Richard Cummings, chair of the KU Endowment Association, invited the crop of grads to continue to participate in university affairs.

This year's three recipients of the Distinguished Service Citations, the highest honor bestowed by the university and KU Alumni Association since 1941 for service to humanity, were introduced at the ceremony.

They are: businessman Frank Becker of Lawrence, class of 1958; retired Kingman physician George Burket, class of 1937; and U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit Judge Deanell Tacha of Lawrence, class of 1968.

In addition, six faculty and 15 students were honored with awards for teaching, leadership and service.

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