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Graduates of the Class of 2013 are “stewards of BU’s long legacy of promoting social justice,” said Wendy Kopp, founder and board chair of Teach for America. The true question, she said, is which injustice to pick in a globally interconnected world. “There’s no how-to guide for how to change the world,” Kopp said.

Kopp was the speaker at BU’s 140th Commencement on May 19, but it was Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman whom students most wanted to hear from. A roar rose from the crowd as he stepped onto Nickerson Field, his face flashing on the jumbo screens.

Wendy Kopp (Hon.’13), founder and board chair of Teach for America, delivered the Commencement address to the Class of 2013 at Boston University’s 140th Commencement. Photo by Melody Komyerov

Freeman stole the show with an impromptu congratulatory message: “I have nothing new to say to you. You already know you’re graduating from one of the greatest universities on the planet.” He credited students’ dedication, hard work, and perseverance for helping them arrive at graduation day.

Approximately 20,000 spectators looked on as more than 6,600 seniors and graduate students were recognized and celebrated along with several guests. Honorary degrees were bestowed on Kopp, Freeman, chemical engineer and biotechnology pioneer Robert S. Langer, and United Methodist Church Bishop Peter D. Weaver (STH’75), who gave the Baccalaureate speech in Marsh Chapel.

In his opening remarks, President Robert A. Brown paused to reflect on the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, which took the life of Lu Lingzi (GRS’13), a graduate student in statistics, and seriously injured Zhou Danling (MET’14). Provost Jean Morrison announced that Lu and Binland Lee (CAS’13), a senior in the BU Marine Program, who died in an Allston house fire in May, would be awarded degrees posthumously.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (Hon.’01) received the Boston University Medallion for his service to the community from President Robert A. Brown (right) and Alan Leventhal (Hon.’09) (left), a BU trustee. Photo by Chitose Suzuki

Brown also presented three faculty members with the University’s highest teaching honor. The Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Deborah Vaughan (GRS’72), a School of Medicine professor of anatomy and neurobiology and assistant dean for admissions, and Metcalf Awards for Excellence in Teaching were presented to John Finnerty, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of biology, and Carol Jenkins, a School of Education associate professor of curriculum and teaching.

Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman stole the show at Commencement. Photo by Kristyn Ulanday

Longtime Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (Hon.’01) received the Boston University Medallion for his service to the community. Brown announced that the Boston Scholars Program, which awards merit scholarships to graduates of the city’s public schools, will be renamed the Thomas M. Menino Scholarship Program and recipients will be referred to as Menino Scholars.

At the School of Education Convocation on May 18, Bill Cosby offered words that brimmed with both pathos and humor, using his underachieving youth as an example of how teachers can and must make a difference. “Don’t you dare accept that you’re teachers because you can’t do anything else,” said the actor, comic, author, and producer, who holds a doctorate in education. “You always hear that people who can’t do, teach. But if you don’t teach, they can’t do.”

See all the coverage of Commencement 2013 here.