Princeton University holds 264th Commencement

2,021 undergraduate and graduate students awarded degrees

Princeton University awarded degrees to 1,202 undergraduates in the class of 2011, four from other classes and 815 graduate students at its 264th Commencement Tuesday, May 31.

The University also conferred honorary doctoral degrees upon six individuals for their contributions to sports, education and the arts: Henry "Hank" Aaron, baseball Hall-of-Famer; Geoffrey Canada, champion for children in Harlem; Susan Desmond-Hellmann, clinical researcher and chancellor of the University of California-San Francisco; Charles Gillispie, Princeton's Dayton Stockton Professor of History Emeritus; Judith Jamison, dancer and choreographer and artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and 1966 Princeton alumnus Robert Rawson Jr., legal expert and long-serving member of the University's Board of Trustees.

President Shirley M. Tilghman, the 19th president of Princeton, presided over the exercises and addressed the graduates. Approximately 7,500 guests attended the morning ceremony on the front lawn of historic Nassau Hall.

John Pardon, who majored in mathematics, delivered the valedictory oration. Pardon scored his first perfect math SAT score in middle school and began taking advanced coursework from an early age. After his sophomore year at Princeton, he took only graduate courses in the mathematics department, with the exception of one high-level undergraduate course. Pardon received prizes for outstanding achievement within Princeton's mathematics department, mastered Chinese in four years of study, played cello for four years with the Princeton University Sinfonia and twice won the student orchestra's annual concerto competition. The winner of a 2010 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a national award recognizing outstanding potential in math, natural sciences or engineering, Pardon earned a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support his graduate studies at Stanford University beginning this fall.

The salutatory address, which at Princeton is traditionally is given in Latin and is the University's oldest student honor, was delivered by Veronica Shi, a classics major. The tradition dates back to an era when the entire Commencement ceremony was conducted in Latin. While the Latin salutatory began as a serious, formal address, today it often includes humorous tributes and recollections, and serves also 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 when to applaud (plaudite) and laugh (ridete) and cheer (conclamate). 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.

Shi learned Latin and Greek her freshman year at Princeton, taking an intensive path of study that continued with study over the summer. The following semester her performance earned her the first A+ that her professor had ever given in a 200- or 300-level Latin course. She impressed her instructors with her accomplishments in several challenging graduate seminars in classics and with her 207-page thesis, which traces how Greek and Latin epic poetry became a political genre. Active also beyond her studies, Shi was a student member of the Faculty Committee on the Course of Study, a member of the Undergraduate Student Government's Academics Committee and a member of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows. Shi won the 2011 Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Scholarship, one of the highest honors given to Princeton undergraduates, which she will use to pursue a master's degree in Greek and Latin languages and literature at Worcester College at the University of Oxford.

Here is more information about Princeton's degree recipients:

Class of 2011 recognized at Commencement, by the numbers
620 men, 582 women
1,006 bachelor of arts
196 bachelor of science in engineering
1,202 total class of 2011 undergraduate degrees awarded at Commencement
4 degrees awarded at Commencement to graduates from former classes

Class of 2011 honors
522 received honors (43.4 percent of the class)
114 highest
163 high
245 honors

Graduate degrees for the 2010-11 year
350 doctor of philosophy
302 master of arts
73 master in public affairs
25 master of architecture
19 master in finance
18 master of science in engineering
16 master in public policy
6 master of engineering
5 master of fine arts
1 master of arts in Near Eastern studies