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10 things to know about Emory’s 2023 Commencement
Photo of Emory campus quad during commencement 2022

Emory University will celebrate its Class of 2023 with Commencement ceremonies May 5-8 on the Atlanta and Oxford College campuses.

— Emory Photo/Video

Emory University will celebrate its Class of 2023 with Commencement ceremonies May 5-8 on the Atlanta and Oxford College campuses.

As the time draws near, here are 10 things you need to know about the celebrations.

1. Anthony Ray Hinton is this year’s Commencement speaker and one of three honorary degree recipients.

Activist, writer and justice advocate Anthony Ray Hinton will deliver the keynote address at the Emory University Commencement ceremony on Monday, May 8.

On Dec. 17, 1986, Hinton entered Death Row in Alabama for crimes he did not commit. He spent the next 30 years in custody until the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) secured his freedom. Hinton now serves as an EJI community educator and is a tireless and powerful advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. He also works with LifeLines, which supports prisoners on Death Row through letter writing, and is the author of the New York Times 2018 bestselling book “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row.”

Emory will confer honorary degrees on three individuals at the Commencement ceremony: Hinton and philanthropists and health care advocates James Cox Kennedy and Sarah Kenan Kennedy.

Jim Kennedy is chairman emeritus of Cox Enterprises and chairman of the James M. Cox Foundation. The foundation supports conservation and the environment, early childhood education, and empowering families and individuals for success and health. He launched Cox Conserves, a sustainability program at Cox that seeks to send zero waste to landfills by 2024 and become carbon- and water-neutral by 2034.

Sarah Kennedy, one of Atlanta’s most active, compassionate and effective civic leaders, serves on the Executive Advisory Council of the Emory Brain Health Center — a body whose members serve as ambassadors locally and nationally, contributing to the mission of the center through philanthropy, networking and advocacy.

Through personal and foundation giving, the Kennedys have made landmark investments in patient care, brain health and cancer. Their contributions in the areas of sustainability, early childhood education, health care and the arts have helped improve the quality of life in our community.

2. Graduates and their guests need tickets to attend in person.

The main Emory University ceremony on Monday, May 8, is on the Emory Quadrangle at 8:30 a.m. Graduating students and their guests are invited to attend in person and enjoy the pomp and circumstance of Emory’s processional march featuring full academic regalia, Anthony Ray Hinton’s keynote address, honorary degree presentations, President Gregory L. Fenves’ address to the graduating class and the formal conferral of all student degrees earned. Student representative Nicole Felix-Tovar will also speak. Registration and tickets are required.

3. You don’t have to be a graduate to get involved or watch the ceremony.

Members of the Emory community who are not graduating students or their guests can also join the celebration. Faculty can participate in the processional (learn about faculty participation). Staff members can fill a variety of volunteer roles, including helping with the annual Chair Rodeo on May 3 or assisting with guest relations on May 8. Learn more and register to help.

You can also watch online or from other areas on campus. The May 8 ceremony will be livestreamed on the Emory Commencement 2023 website and available for viewing on Emory Television 28.1 (QAM). A simulcast will be shown in Rooms 206, 207 and 208 of White Hall and other locations on campus. Soon after Commencement, the live event video will be available for archival viewing.

4. Attendees must follow safety protocols.

All graduates, guests and others at the Commencement ceremonies should follow any safety protocols that are in place. Masks are optional in most spaces on Emory’s campuses and on Emory shuttles and buses.

In the event of potentially dangerous weather, check the university’s website, or call the dangerous weather hotline (404-727-1234) after 7 p.m. Sunday for the status of Commencement activities scheduled for Monday. Check the Commencement website for details about plans in case of dangerous weather.

5. Numerous celebrations will occur before Commencement.

From Class Day Crossover to Baccalaureate to school diploma ceremonies, the Class of 2023 is being honored with a full slate of events surrounding Commencement. The celebration began with an open house for graduating students at the home of President Gregory L. Fenves on April 23 and continues through May 8.

Special Belonging and Community Justice graduation festivities honor graduating Black students (May 6), Latinx students (May 6), Asian Pacific Islander Desi/American graduates (May 7) and students who are the first in their families to graduate from college (May 7); ceremonies honoring women and LGBTQ students have already been held. Learn about those ceremonies here.

Class Day Crossover, a student-organized event for those receiving undergraduate degrees, will be Thursday, May 4, at 6 p.m. The evening will include a student reception, inspiring remarks from Kal Penn — actor, writer, producer and former associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement — and Emory leaders, and the presentation of senior awards (including the Boisfeuillet Jones Medals). The Candlelight Crossover tradition continues when graduating undergraduate students will cross as a group from the Emory Student Center to McDonough Field for a party in their honor.

Emory alumni, faculty, staff and trustees also are invited to a special pre-Crossover Reception and to cheer on the graduates during the Candlelight Crossover. This group will then join the party on McDonough Field for a final Coke toast to the graduates.

The Class of 2023 Multifaith Baccalaureate Ceremony will be Friday, May 5, at 4:30 p.m. in Cannon Chapel. The program will celebrate the academic and personal journeys of the graduating senior class and send the class into the world with music, prayers, inspiring reflections and blessings. The Oxford College Baccalaureate Ceremony will be at Old Church on Friday, May 5, at 5 p.m.

View the Commencement events schedule.

6. Honors will extend beyond the graduates.

Commencement will pay tribute to several individuals and groups in addition to the graduates.

The Exemplary Teacher of the Year Award and the Thomas Jefferson Award, which honor faculty or staff who have significantly enriched the intellectual and civic life of the Emory community, will be presented during the May 8 Emory University Commencement ceremony. Other honors presented to faculty and staff during Commencement events include:

Members of the Society of Corpus Cordis Aureum, a group of alumni celebrating 50 or more years since their graduation, will also be honored at the Oxford and Atlanta ceremonies. You can recognize them in their distinctive gold Commencement robes.

7. Be prepared for special parking and transportation situations.

Expect heavy traffic on the Atlanta campus Friday, May 5, and Monday, May 8. Staff who are not involved in Commencement are encouraged to work remotely on those days, if possible. University parking deck gates will be open for Commencement guests at no charge from Friday, May 5, through Monday, May 8. Visitor parking fees will still apply in the Lowergate East and Lowergate West decks since they support Emory University Hospital and the Emory Clinic patients and visitors.

A modified shuttle schedule will be in place Monday, May 8. Check the Transportation and Parking Services website for specific route information. You can also track Commencement shuttles in real time on the Transloc Rider website or by downloading the Transloc Rider app.

8. Services for those needing hearing or mobility assistance will be offered.

Live captioning will be available for the university ceremony on the Quad on May 8. A passenger drop-off area is located on Dowman Drive near the Administration Building, closest to the accessible seating area of the Quadrangle. Emory University does not provide wheelchair rental services, but several vendors can help with rental arrangements. Visit the Emory Commencement “Planning Your Visit” page and click on “Prior to the Event” for details.

9. Share your memories with the graduating class.

Congratulate Class of 2023 graduates or share memories of your time together by leaving a message on the virtual Memory Wall. Messages and photos can be uploaded for specific students or schools; you can also discover memories that others have shared by searching via student or school.

10. Join the celebration with #Emory2023.

Use the #Emory2023 hashtag to join the Commencement celebration on social media posts. You might even see your post shared on the university’s social media accounts.

Emory University 2023 Commencement schedule

Friday, May 5

  • James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies: 2 p.m.
  • School of Medicine, Doctor of Physical Therapy: 2:30 p.m.
  • School of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine: 4 p.m.
  • Goizueta Business School, Full-time, Executive and Evening MAF, MSBA and MBA: 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 6

  • Candler School of Theology: 9 a.m.
  • Rollins School of Public Health: 10 a.m.
  • Oxford College: 10 a.m.
  • School of Medicine, Genetic Counseling Training Program: 11 a.m.

Sunday, May 7

  • School of Law: 11 a.m.

Monday, May 8

  • Emory University Commencement: 8:30 a.m.
  • Emory College of Arts and Sciences: 10:15 a.m.
  • Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing: 11 a.m.
  • Goizueta Business School, BBA: 11 a.m.
  • School of Medicine, Medical Imaging Program: 12:30 p.m.

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