Thousands to walk down hill Sunday in KU commencement ceremony

photo by: Nick Krug

Graduates toss their caps after the conferral of degrees during the 2011 commencement at Memorial Stadium on Sunday, May 22, 2011.

Nearly 4,000 members of KU’s class of 2018 will have their chance to walk through the Campanile and into Memorial Stadium on Sunday.

It’s graduation weekend in Lawrence, and the University of Kansas has picked Mother’s Day as the backdrop of KU’s 145th commencement, slated for 10:30 a.m. The university reported more than 5,000 candidates for degrees this spring, with students representing 90 Kansas counties, 46 other states, territories and Washington, D.C., and 48 other countries.

Sunday’s ceremony starts with the traditional procession down the hill at 10:30 a.m., followed by a program and the conferral of degrees by Chancellor Douglas Girod. Other speakers in this year’s program include Dave Murfin, Kansas Board of Regents chair, and Kevin Carroll, national chair of the KU Alumni Association. The entire ceremony is expected to last about two hours.

The recipient of this year’s honorary Doctor of Science degree is Richard M. Weinshilboum, in recognition of “his groundbreaking work in pharmacogenomics,” or the study of how drugs respond to DNA, according to KU. Weinshilboum, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from KU, is the director of pharmacogenomics and chair of the division of clinical pharmacology at the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.

KU alumnus Juan Manuel Santos, who is the president of Colombia and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, received his honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree last fall during a ceremony at the Lied Center. His achievements will also be recognized at Sunday’s commencement.

No tickets are required, and those who can’t make it to the ceremony will be able to watch a livestream of the event at

Parking will be free — no permits required — and plentiful Sunday, with 2,300 spots available within a short walking distance of Memorial Stadium and an additional 3,000 parking stalls near Allen Fieldhouse and Murphy Hall. For limited-mobility guests, accessible parking will be made available on the east and west sides of the stadium, with or without a state-issued disability parking permit.

A free shuttle service to Memorial Stadium will began at 8:30 a.m. and end one hour after the commencement ceremony. The route will make stops along Jayhawk Boulevard and to the DeBruce Center, the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center, Murphy Hall and the Kansas Union.

Memorial Drive will be closed to all traffic from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The National Weather Service is predicting a high of 89 degrees, with a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. Otherwise, the day should remain at least partly sunny.

The ceremony is expected to take place, rain or shine, at 10:30 a.m. sharp, though graduates and guests are encouraged to bring the appropriate gear, including hats and sunscreen.

If severe weather is in the forecast for 10:30 a.m. — meaning thunderstorms with lightning, high winds, heavy or prolonged rain or risk of tornadoes — KU administrators will postpone the ceremony until 12:30 p.m.

In the event of postponement, an announcement will be made by 9 a.m. Sunday via KU Info and, on the @KUNews Twitter account, at and on local radio stations. Students who have signed up for KU’s alert notifications will also receive messages on their cellphones.

If commencement is postponed until 12:30, graduates will be asked to assemble on Memorial Drive at noon. If weather conditions make the 12:30 start time impossible, the university will have to cancel commencement altogether. That hasn’t happened in recent memory, however.


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