Mark Siegler, a professor in the Department of Medicine, will address outgoing fourth-years in the College this weekend for the first three convocation sessions, while the Graduate School of Business session will feature Richard Thaler, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics in the Business School.
Siegler is the Lindy Bergman Distinguished Service Professor at the University and the director of the world-famous MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.
“He’s a brilliant man, and I’m very interested in what he has to say,” said Susan Art, dean of the College.
Siegler declined to comment on his own speech until after it had been given.
According to Richard Saller, the University provost, Siegler was asked to make his speech general enough to be accessible to all different fields, but also specific enough to “connect the speech with their own field.”
Student reaction has been mixed. Mabel Ning, a graduating third-year, said that because previous speakers have been very interesting at graduation, she’s looking forward to Siegler’s speech.
Representing a large contingent of students, however, was Peter Bugg, a graduating fourth-year.
“I didn’t pay any attention at all to the speaker at my high school graduation and will probably be too busy with my own thoughts to pay much attention to this speaker,” he said.
Bugg was not upset that the University declined to showcase a professional speaker-unlike someoother universities, such as Yale and Harvard, for example, who brought Thomas Friedman and Will Farrell, respectively, to the podium this year.
“I doubt that the awe factor would entice me out of my own head,” Bugg said.
Three undergraduates will also speak briefly. The students have been nominated to speak by their senior classmates and have gone through an arduous interview and committee process, according to Fred Ruddat, the faculty member advising the committee process.
The speakers are John Furman Daniel, III, Sadie Olds Stein, and Mark Russell O’Neill. Daniel will address the importance of the life of the mind, while Stein will speak about the “unique nursery this place provides for eccentricity… [and the] ability to act without self-consciousness that’s always characterized the school.” O’Neill will defend the liberal education.
Siegler’s speech follows a long University of Chicago tradition of asking a faculty member to speak at convocation in lieu of a high-profile outside speaker. When Bill Clinton came as President in 1999, he was relegated to the end of the session, after the faculty professor had already spoken.
“This tradition is indicative of the talent of professors that we have here and can get year after year,” Art said. “Also, the kind of thoughtful, academic speeches that the professors give fits the culture of the school and the type of education they have been given in four years here.”
Art said that other schools look for a speaker that may be celebrities or politicians, who would give speeches that “may be funny, or otherwise entertaining.” Instead, the University sends a message by not seeking this out. “Our tradition ensures that the speech fits the students here and the type of education they have,” Art said.
There will be four different convocation ceremonies, each for separate sections of the University. On Friday, June 13 at 10 a.m., the Law School, the Harris School of Public Policy, and the school of social service will graduate. Later that day at 3 p.m., the Graham School of General Studies, the Pritzker School of Medicine, the Division of Humanities, the Division of Physical Sciences, the Division of Social Sciences, and the Divinity School will follow.
The next day, the College will graduate at 10 a.m., to be followed the day after at 1:30 p.m. by the Graduate School of Business. Honorary degrees and faculty awards for graduate teaching will be presented at the second Friday session, and the Quantrell Awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching will be presented Saturday.