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Week of 14 May 1999

Vol. II, No. 34

Feature Article

Senior Brunch: a send-off with a touch of send-up

By Eric McHenry

At the 1996 Senior Breakfast, incoming BU President Jon Westling announced that Chancellor John Silber had reneged on his appointment, assigning him instead to be the Zamboni driver for Walter Brown Arena. At last year's Jazz Brunch, Westling disclosed that the University was about to launch "stage two of our campus face-lift, made possible by a generous grant from Walt Disney Enterprises": Kenmore Square was to be rechristened Norman Rockwell's America, and the "craters on Marsh Plaza" enlarged and filled with swamp water and animatronic alligators.

At this year's brunch, held May 10 in the GSU's Metcalf Hall, Westling treated seniors to a slide show featuring artists' renderings of the Charles River Campus of tomorrow: Mugar Memorial Library will be a WalMart, and the student village currently under construction on the Armory site will, when complete, resemble a Dust Bowl-era shantytown.

The annual brunch, traditionally the occasion at which BU's president reveals the identity of the Commencement speaker and presents the University's gift to the senior class, has clearly acquired another tradition: humor.

Westling referred to the new DeWolfe Boathouse -- which, it turns out, will look exactly like Warren Towers -- as "a sort of bridgehead in our long-term strategic plan to buy up a couple of our competitors over there on the left bank of the Charles." He also ticked off the top 10 ways he could improve the University, recommended to him recently by a team of independent consultants. They included "lower prices at all Campus Convenience stores by 50 percent," "instruct the B&G landscapers to plant flowers at times other than Parents Weekend and Commencement," and "lower prices at all Campus Convenience stores by another 60 percent."

Several of Westling's jokes prompted bursts of spontaneous applause from the more than 1,600 seniors, but nothing generated more sustained clapping than the quite sincere announcement of this year's Commencement speaker: Henry Kissinger (see story, page 1). Westling also named the Baccalaureate speaker, Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond II, and this year's honorary degree recipients, James Carlin, retiring chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president of George Washington University, and Oscar-winning actress and alumna Geena Davis. He then presented the University's gift to seniors -- a leather portfolio containing a pen with the BU insignia. "We hope that it will be of use to you in your careers, or in your graduate studies, or both," Westling said.

He concluded with warm wishes to the outgoing class, noting that "in the years to come, when others assess Boston University, they won't think primarily of the buildings or the libraries or the sports teams. They'll think of you, our graduates.

"I want you to know that we are confident about sending you out into the world as exemplars of what this University stands for," Westling said. "You are among the world's best, and we are very proud of you."

Westling's remarks followed the conferral of several annual honors reserved for seniors, including the University Community Service Award. W. Norman Johnson, vice president and dean of students, presented the prize to Trupti Rao, a CAS psychology major who has participated in more than 10 volunteer programs while at BU.

"The program with which she has had the most involvement," Johnson said, "the Community Service Center Siblings Program, provides mentors and the valuable input needed for the healthy development of the children who are enrolled. Trupti has spent every weekend organizing the Siblings Program, and has mentored siblings for the past four years."