Over 1,000 Receive Diplomas

The skies were overcast and the ground was soggy, but nothing could dampen the spirits of some 1,203 graduates who received degrees at commencement on May 15.

An overnight rain left the Plaza lush and waterlogged, and cloudy skies threatened to force the ceremony inside; but the rain held off until early afternoon, and undergraduates of the Class of 1989 received their degrees amid open-air pomp and circumstance. Diplomas awarded included 773 bachelor’s degrees, 150 juris doctor degrees, 176 master’s degrees (121 of those were master of business administration degrees), 96 doctor of medicine degrees, and eight doctor of philosophy degrees.

Benjamin Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post and the commencement speaker, had some cogent advice for the University’s largest graduating class: “Through hard work, diligence, wisdom, and good character, my generation has finally gotten with world into pretty good shape,” he said. “Don’t screw it up!”

Bradlee told the graduates that “the truth is even harder to find than a good man or a good woman,” and that they should not expect to find it, or at least all of it, in their daily newspapers. He gave three reasons for his statement. “As Albert Camus said, ‘There is no truth, only truths.’ What one well-intentioned person embraces as the ultimate truth,  another well-intentioned person dismisses as a peripheral fact.”

Secondly, said Bradlee, newspapers are writing only the rough draft of history. Newspapers should be read as a first draft, he said, “as the best that reporters and editors could do with the information available under given restraints.”

Thirdly, he said, “People lie. Sometimes the finest people lie without knowing it, without evil motive.”

Bradlee encouraged the graduates to beware of bias, “but be aware of your own biases as much as you are aware of mine and my colleagues. There are so many people watch-dogging the press today that our biases are pretty well defined. Yours are pretty well conceived.”

Honorary degrees were presented to Bradlee, doctor of humane letters; and:

  • Dewey Hobbs (’47), director of pastoral care at N.C. Baptist Hospital, doctor of divinity;
  • Brig. Gen. Evelyn Patricia Foote (’52), doctor of laws;
  • Zachary Smith, former trustee and a board member of the Mary Reynolds Babcock and Z. Smith Reynolds Foundations, doctor of laws;
  • Maynard Adams, philosopher, author and Kenan professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, doctor of humane letters;
  • and the late Harold T.P. Hayes (’48), former editor of Esquire, doctor of letters, posthumously.

Published in Wake Forest Magazine.