Princeton University holds 261st Commencement

1,868 undergraduate and graduate students awarded degrees

Princeton University awarded degrees to 1,125 undergraduates and 743 graduate students at its 261st Commencement Tuesday, June 3.

In addition, the University conferred honorary doctoral degrees upon five individuals for their contributions to the creative and performing arts, political thought, science, literature and higher education: Quincy Jones, the inspirational entertainment industry executive; George Kateb, an internationally influential political theorist and Princeton's William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics Emeritus; Mary-Claire King, a pioneering molecular geneticist; Haruki Murakami, a world renowned author, essayist and translator; and John Waterbury, president of the American University of Beirut and Princeton's William Stewart Tod Professor of Politics and International Affairs Emeritus.

President Shirley M. Tilghman, the 19th president of Princeton, presided over the exercises and addressed graduates. Approximately 7,000 guests attended the morning ceremony on the front lawn of historic Nassau Hall.

The valedictory oration was delivered by Zachary Squire, a classics major from New York who received numerous awards for academic excellence while at Princeton and earned a string of A+ grades outside his major that included courses in electrical engineering, geosciences and physics. Squire will begin work after graduation for D.E. Shaw & Co., an investment firm based in New York.

Salutatorian James Morrison, a chemical engineering major, delivered the salutatory address, which at Princeton is traditionally given in Latin and is the University's oldest student honor. The tradition dates back to an era when the entire Commencement ceremony was conducted in Latin. The Latin salutatory began as a serious, formal address, but today it often includes humorous tributes and recollections, as well as a farewell to Princeton campus life.

Because few students today know Latin, the new graduates follow along using printed copies of the remarks. These include footnotes telling the graduates when to clap (plaudite) and laugh (ridete). Guests and other audience members do not have the annotated copies, a practice dictated by tradition because the salute is directed to the members of the class.

Despite his academic focus on engineering at Princeton, Morrison's pursuit of Latin began in middle school. He continued his studies through high school, and then at the University by taking five classics courses, feeding his interest in Roman literature while pursuing his major in chemical engineering and a certificate in engineering physics. After graduation, Morrison will work in quantitative finance for Goldman Sachs in New York City, and he'll consider graduate studies in applied physics in the future.

Class of 2008 by the numbers
595 men, 526 women
945 bachelor of arts
176 bachelor of science in engineering
1,121 total class of 2008 undergraduate degrees awarded
4 degrees were awarded to graduates from earlier classes

Class of 2008 honors
484 received honors (43.2 percent of the class)
106 highest
160 high
218 honors

Graduate degrees
307 doctor of philosophy
288 master of arts
55 master in public affairs
23 master in architecture
21 master in finance
16 master in public policy
14 master of science in engineering
8 master in public affairs and urban and regional planning
4 master of engineering
4 master of fine arts
3 master of arts in Near Eastern studies