Graduation is both a beginning and an end for the city’s college students. Before jamming to Vitamin C’s iconic ‘90s hit “Graduation" (2000), these kids make the most of their final days on campus before a last hurrah on Commencement Day. Providence has seen its share of heartwarming moments and wacky high jinks from the city’s graduates; here’s our guide to the highlights of commencements past.
Brown University (May 28): Brown has been bestowing degrees since before we were singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Their first commencement awarded only seven (yep, seven) bachelors degrees in 1769. Curious ceremonies have since followed: in 1970, graduates turned their backs in protest of the National Guard’s recent assault on unarmed student protesters at Kent State, and in 1985, Prince Faisal bin Hussein’s graduation brought helicopters to an otherwise peaceful sky. Continuing the trend, its 249th ceremony will feature Robert De Niro as one of six honorary graduates.
Providence College (May 21): If you witnessed G-day at Providence College back in 2015, you were graced with inspiring words from musical legend Darlene Love, who then shook the walls with an unexpected gospel performance that got a standing O. Be sure to congratulate WaterFire executive director Barnaby Evans when you see him this summer – he’s an honorary degree recipient for the school’s 99th commencement.
New England Tech: Many that graduate from New England Tech are the first to hold college degrees in their families, so Commencement becomes a special kind of celebration, with inspirational speakers to give the students an extra boost. Past guests include Billie Jean King, Mario Andretti and Al Roker, and this year's ceremony on April 10 featured David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
Rhode Island School of Design (June 3): The students of RISD always bring it when it comes to walking that stage. Students have accepted degrees while dressed as veggies and have streaked during the ceremony; before the festivities were moved into the convention center, students were allowed to bring animals to the outdoor ceremony, including, one year, a boa constrictor. Past commencement speakers have been equally distinctive – like John Waters, whose inspirational and idiosyncratic 2015 speech became a book of its own. Prepare for the unexpected when RISD kids put on those glammed-out gowns.