Penn’s 258th Commencement

The journey leading to Commencement can be a challenging one—and on Monday, May 19, the University community gathered to celebrate students’ significant academic achievement.

More than 5,000 graduates received their degrees at Penn’s 258th Commencement, held on a sunny, picture-perfect spring day.

“As Penn graduates, you exemplify the ethos of talent, coupled with drive and determination,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann.

Commencement speaker John Legend C’99, known in Penn circles by his birth name, John Stephens, encouraged the graduates to “go all in” and approach professional and personal pursuits with passion as they begin the next chapter of their lives.

“The reason I’ve had a wonderful journey so far, is because I’ve found love,” said Legend. “The key to success is opening up your mind and your heart to love, and spending your time doing things you love with people you love.”

Legend, a nine-time Grammy Award-winning soul artist and philanthropist, advised the graduates to give back to their communities and to show love to the millions of other people around the world, as well.

“I want you to consider what it means to love them, too,” said Legend. “It means that American lives don’t count more than Iraqi lives. It means that nearly 300 kidnapped girls in Nigeria aren’t just their problem—they’re our girls, too.”

Legend received an honorary Doctor of Music degree.

Other honorary degree recipients included:

Eugenio Calabi, a Penn professor emeritus of mathematics and founder of the “Calabi Conjecture” regarding the structure of certain abstract spaces; Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art; Edna Adan Ismail, health-care advocate, educator and founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Somaliland; Raymond G. Perelman, a generous Penn benefactor for whom, in addition to his late wife, Penn’s medical school is named and CEO of the multinational RGP Holdings Inc.; Olympia J. Snowe, a former United States Senator from Maine; George A. Weiss, Penn alum, generous benefactor, president of George Weiss Associates Inc., CEO of Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisors LLC and founder of Say Yes to Education.

Text by Jeanne Leong
Photos by Steve Minicola and Scott Spitzer