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A Guide to This Year’s Commencement Weekend

Festivities celebrating the Class of 2017 kick off today


Approximately 20,000 people are expected to visit campus this weekend to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2017. The festivities have begun,culminating in the 144th All-University Commencement on Nickerson Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 21.

From the annual Comedy Night to riverboat cruises on the Charles to BU Night at the Pops to the Celebration 2017 Dinner, events are ongoing through Sunday’s main ceremony. Tickets can be purchased at the Warren Towers front desk, 700 Commonwealth Ave., on Thursday, May 18, from 3 to 8 p.m., Friday, May 19, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, May 20, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Graduates can pick up their caps and gowns on the fifth floor of Barnes and Noble@BU, 660 Beacon St. Bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates must purchase their gowns; doctoral candidates rent theirs. To avoid late charges, rented doctoral regalia must be returned to the bookstore by Saturday, May 27. The University will withhold transcripts for graduates who do not return rented regalia. For graduates who purchase their gowns and want to recycle them, white bins for recycling gowns will be available at four locations: the first floor of 33 Harry Agganis Way, the ground floor of 10 Buick St., the fourth floor of Warren Towers, and the basement of 518 Park Drive in South Campus.

Security will be heightened on campus throughout the weekend. The BU Police Department has issued strict guidelines for both graduates and guests. Find details here. Find information about first aid and emergency services available during Commencement Weekend here.

BU parking lots and garages will be open and free of charge throughout the weekend. On Commencement Day, visitors parking on the east side of campus can travel to Nickerson Field using a special Commencement BU Shuttle service. All lots have accessible parking for individuals with disabilities; those who require accessible parking should call Parking & Transportation Services at 617-353-2160. Find more information about the disability services available this weekend, including seating, individual accommodations, and wheelchair rentals, here.

Transportation: visitors are encouraged to use public transit and the BU Shuttle whenever possible to minimize traffic and demand for parking spaces. Starting Friday, a special Commencement shuttle will run on a continuous loop between Kenmore Square and the Track & Tennis Center, 100 Ashford St.: it will run from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Find a map of the shuttle route here. Visitors are also urged to use public transit wherever possible: the MBTA Green Line B trolley runs up and down Commonwealth Avenue. Check here for MBTA maps and schedules. Find more information about transportation here.

Individual school and college convocations begin on Thursday, May 18 (School of Medicine), and run through Sunday, May 21. Information about each school’s convocation, including the time and location of individual ceremonies, can be found on the Commencement website, along with contact information for each school’s convocation coordinators, who are available to answer questions about a specific ceremony. No tickets are required to attend convocation ceremonies.


Photo by Kristyn Ulanday

Friday, May 19

25th Annual Comedy Night

Graduation weekend festivities begin Friday night with the annual comedy show. This year’s roster of comics: comedian and motivational speaker Laura De Veau (CGS’87, COM’89, SED’95); nine-time Emmy-winning comedy writer, standup comic, and former executive producer of The Daily Show Rory Albanese; Emmy-winning writer and host Greg Fitzsimmons, whose credits include The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Lucky Louie, and Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher; and newcomer Andrew Giustino (COM’17),winner of this year’s BU’s Funniest Student competition. The event begins at 8 p.m. at the College of General Studies Auditorium, 871 Commonwealth Ave. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Warren Towers front desk.

Saturday, May 20

Riverboat Cruises on the Charles

The Charles Riverboat Company cruises offer guests unparalleled views of Boston and Cambridge and are one of the most popular Commencement Weekend activities. All boats depart, rain or shine, from the Deerfield Dock; cross the footbridge on Silber Way to get there. The first boat departs at 9:30 a.m. and the last at 2:25 p.m. All rides last about half an hour. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance at the Warren Towers front desk.

Celebration 2017 Dinner

Graduates and their families are invited to attend this special gala dinner, featuring a delicious buffet of salads, entrees, sides, and desserts. There will be a cash bar with beer, wine, and premium liquors. Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for children 3 to 12, complimentary for children under 3 (ticket still required). The dinner, from 5 to 7 p.m., is at the 808 Events Facility, an art deco banquet hall at 808 Commonwealth Ave. Tickets can be purchased at the Warren Towers front desk. Those planning to attend BU Night at the Pops can take free shuttle bus service to Symphony Hall from 808 Comm Ave, starting at 7 p.m.

Conductor Keith Lockhart will lead the Boston Pops at the 103rd BU Night at the Pops at Symphony Hall on Saturday, May 20.

Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart (Hon.’04) will lead the Boston Pops at the 103rd BU Night at the Pops at Symphony Hall on Saturday, May 20. Photo by Stu Rosner

103rd BU Night at the Pops

One of BU’s oldest Commencement traditions is BU Night at the Pops. Maestro Keith Lockhart (Hon.’04), now celebrating his 22nd season as Boston Pops conductor, will conduct the 103rd BU Night at the Pops, at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $96 and can be purchased at the Warren Towers front desk. A free shuttle to and from Symphony Hall begins at 7 p.m.

Sunday, May 21

Baccalaureate Service

All graduates and their families are invited to the annual Baccalaureate service at Marsh Chapel at 11 a.m. Mario J. Molina, winner of a 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, will deliver the Baccalaureate Address, and Robert Allan Hill, dean of Marsh Chapel, will lead the service. University President Robert A. Brown and Jean Morrison, BU provost, will also participate. The Marsh Chapel Choir and Majestic Brass will take part in the interdenominational service. Information about other on-campus worship services can be found here.

144th All-University Commencement

The 144th All-University Commencement begins promptly at 1 p.m. on Nickerson Field, rain or shine. Tickets are not required for admission and there is no limit to the number of guests. Seating is first-come, first-served, and attendees are encouraged to arrive at the field no later than noon, as the stands fill quickly. Designated areas will be reserved for guests with disabilities. The Commencement ceremony will last about two hours.

Guests and bags will be screened. Graduates must carry their caps and gowns to the ceremony to expedite screening, and bag size is limited to 12″ x 12″ x 6″. Oversized totes, backpacks, briefcases, and wrapped presents will not be allowed on the field. There will be an express lane for guests not carrying a bag.


Photo by Dave Green

Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

Bonnie Hammer (CGS’69, COM’71, SED’75) will deliver the 144th Commencement Address and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. She is chair of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group, overseeing a network portfolio that includes E! Entertainment, Bravo, Oxygen, USA, and Syfy, as well as production entities Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios.

Mario J. Molina, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995, will deliver the Baccalaureate Address Sunday morning. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws.

The other honorary degree recipients are retired Red Sox player David Ortiz, Doctor of Humane Letters; trustee emeritus and current overseer Robert A. Knox (CAS’74, Questrom’75), cofounder of Cornerstone Equity Investors, L.L.C., Doctor of Laws; and Jeanne Knox, the chair of the Boston University Parents Leadership Council, Doctor of Humane Letters. All honorary degrees will be presented at the All-University Commencement.

Commencement Webcast and Broadcast

Those unable to attend the All-University Commencement can watch a live broadcast of the ceremony starting at 1 p.m. It will also be broadcast live on WBUR 90.9 FM.

More information about Commencement can be found here.

Liz Vanderau can be reached at vanderau@bu.edu.

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