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Looking Back on a Stormy, Resilient 2015 Commencement

Students, faculty, family and friends enjoyed college and school convocations before the storms hit. And even though the university-wide ceremony was canceled, the celebration went on.

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Well, that was memorable.

Fireworks at the University of Texas Tower for the 2015 Commencement

The 132nd Commencement was an epic weekend, full of record-breaking weather in Austin. But the wind and rain didn’t put a damper on celebrations for The University of Texas at Austin’s Class of 2015, which celebrated with fireworks and a Tower lighting one day late. Marsha Miller

 

For the first time in University of Texas at Austin history, the spring commencement ceremony was canceled. Severe weather made it unsafe for the university-wide event to take place. But, in true Longhorn spirit, the celebration went on.

Students, faculty, family and friends enjoyed college and school convocations on Friday and Saturday before the storms hit. View photos below from our Commencement Flickr album, and share your own online using #UTgrad:

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Saturday night the university arranged a small ceremony inside the Tower, featuring remarks by President Bill Powers, outgoing Student Government president Kori Rady and UT System Chancellor William McRaven, who honored past UT graduates who missed their own commencement ceremonies because they were required to report to duty for the Vietnam War.

Keynote speaker Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and a Texas Ex, also delivered remarks. Walker, who was born to a single mother in a charity hospital in a segregated Louisiana town and went on to earn three degrees from UT and lead the nation’s second largest philanthropic organization, spoke movingly about transcending hardships and building bridges. 

“Tonight, as you cross the figurative bridge that is your commencement day — as you cross that bridge over the Colorado River and leave the 40 Acres behind; as your journey unfolds before your very eyes — think about how you can build a bridge to a better world,” Walker said. He also shared two of his personal mottos: “Pressure is a privilege,” and “You rest, you rust.”

The musical performances didn’t happen, but journalism senior lecturer Kevin Robbins captured this video from a rehearsal earlier in the week of Professor Jerry Junkin leading Butler School of Music students in a beautifully subdued rendition of the Eyes of Texas.

When it was announced that the fireworks were postponed until Sunday evening, students organized an unofficial commencement celebration for that night. A massive crowd of students, many in cap and gown, gathered on the Main Mall for speeches from Rady and Powers, live music and a rendition of the Eyes of Texas, accompanied by student carrilloneur and Class of 2015 graduate Austin Ferguson on the Tower bells. (See one student’s recap of the unofficial commencement on BuzzFeed.)

“This tenure with you all has been the blessing of my life,” Powers told the crowd. “You all are the very best students in America.”

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Daily Texan coverage of the impromptu indoor ceremony: