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UT pays tribute to its graduating students with three-day celebration

Broadcast journalist Bill Moyers and opera legend Barbara Conrad, both University of Texas at Austin distinguished alumni, will highlight the University’s May 20 evening Commencement ceremony, an event which last year drew 26,000 people to the campus.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Broadcast journalist Bill Moyers and opera legend Barbara Conrad, both University of Texas at Austin distinguished alumni, will highlight the University’s May 20 evening Commencement ceremony, an event which last year drew 26,000 people to the campus.

The 2000 University-wide ceremony, which marks the 117th observance of UT’s spring graduation, is the capstone to a weekend of festivities (May 19-21) designed to honor nearly 7,000 undergraduate and graduate degree candidates. The number of graduates is up from last year’s 6,461.

The event is free and open to the general public. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Six video screens will provide the audience with a close view of the activities on stage. Air conditioned seating will be available in Flawn Academic Center Room 21, Batts Auditorium and Hogg Auditorium.

The celebration begins at 7 p.m. on the South Terrace of the Main Building with the carillon prelude, followed at 7:20 p.m. by the Commencement concert and at 8 p.m. by the grand procession of graduates and faculty members. Graduates must present a procession ticket to guarantee a seat at the evening ceremony. The tickets are free with student ID and are available at the Performing Arts Center and Erwin Center box offices. Students are encouraged to get their tickets before 5 p.m. Friday (May 19). They will be available on Saturday (May 20) at the Erwin Center box office until 4 p.m.

The closing fireworks display, which has become a much-anticipated part of the evening celebration, will include some new elements. And, in addition to the Tower turning orange at the moment degrees are conferred, the six buildings lining the South Mall also will be lit orange. Cyberlights will be projected on the south face of the Tower and also on the east face to accommodate overflow seating.

This year’s ceremony also marks the debut of the real-time broadcast of the event on the University’s Website at www.utexas.edu.

Moyers, whose work in television has been recognized with numerous honors, including more than 30 Emmy Awards and several George Peabody Awards, will deliver the Commencement address. He is the ideal Commencement speaker for the first graduating class of the new millennium, said University President Larry R. Faulkner. “Bill Moyers employs his curiosity, his resourcefulness and his education to help America examine major issues in civilization — theology, political science, history, poetry and mythology,” said Faulkner. “UT Austin is where his future began, and we welcome him back home.”

A 1956 graduate of the University, Moyers was long associated with the Public Broadcasting Service and with CBS News as a producer, correspondent and commentator. He formed his own company, Public Affairs Television, Inc. in 1987. Among his public television series are “Creativity, A Walk Through the 20th Century,” “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth,” “A World of Ideas,” “Healing and the Mind” and “Amazing Grace.” Several of his books based on the television series have become best sellers.

Conrad, who was graduated from UT Austin in 1959, will sing during the Commencement concert. The mezzo-soprano signed with the Metropolitan Opera in 1981, making her debut in the Parks Concert in Il Trovatore,and her official “house debut” in Der Rosenkavalier,which was later telecast on “Live from the Met” in the 1982-83 season. Since then, Conrad has appeared in numerous operas with the company.

Conrad continues to complement her performance activities with a limited schedule of artist residencies and master classes that fulfill her commitment to the development of talented young artists. She has been honored by the founding of the Barbara Conrad Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Fine Arts at UT Austin.

Due to the special significant of the year 2000, steps have been taken to enhance the evening ceremony, said Rod Caspers of the UT Office of University Relations. The grand processional, for example, has been redesigned. Graduates will now walk from the Littlefield Fountain on 21st Street up to the South Terrace led by a small group of musicians. “Hopefully, it will create more of a parade effect,” said Caspers. “We know we will have a large crowd, and are taking steps to see that everyone in attendance is included — surrounded by the festivities — hence better sound, a greater use of video screens and additional lighting.”

An addition also has been made to the undergraduate student’s gown and mortar board regalia. A satin stole in the color of the student’s college or school has been added. The stole or vestment has “UT Commencement 2000” inscribed in black letters.

Also, a new tradition is being introduced by graduating students. A gift of medallions of office will be presented by students to each of the deans, the provost and the president. The medallions of office will be passed from generation to generation of academic officers.

Refreshments will be available for purchase this year at various locations in addition to free water available at several sites.

Graduates will be recognized individually at their college and school convocations. These ceremonies will take place Friday through Sunday of Commencement weekend. Because of high attendance, some colleges are having multiple ceremonies by department.

In case of rain, the Saturday evening ceremony will be moved to the Frank C. Erwin Center at 15th and Red River streets. The decision to move the event indoors will be made by the President’s Office late Saturday afternoon. The media will be notified.

The Office of Public Affairs has set up a phone number, (512) 232-9999, to provide general information about the main graduation ceremony, college and school convocations and updated weather plans. The number will be available beginning Friday morning (May 19).