Graduations in New Orleans have a pizzazz that those in other cities probably lack – brass bands, second lines, and Mardi Gras beads are all a part of a “typical” high school or college graduation in the Crescent City. This year Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine’s class of 2012 enjoyed these and a few extra surprises to help celebrate their status as the Centennial class, marking the school’s founding in 1912.
Degree candidates lined up outside Dixon Hall on Tulane’s Uptown campus and were lead into the auditorium by a six-piece brass band, the Pin Stripes. More than the usual mortarboard, graduates were adorned with custom Centennial mortarboard toppers, creating a unified anniversary visual once they were seated.
Ms. Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, delivered the Centennial Address, thanking the class for their dedication to important issues that affect lives rather than simply seeking careers of power and prestige. Following her address, Dean Pierre Buekens inducted Jackson into the Delta Omega Society as an honorary member for her commitment to a safe and healthy environment and her leadership in promoting environmental health science and justice. Delta Omega is the honorary society for public health.
The event took an unusual turn, when graduate Ms. Chandni Vasisht announced that she would forego the customary student speech in lieu of a surprise musical guest. Fiddler and singer Ms. Amanda Shaw then took to the stage to the enthusiastic applause of the audience.
After crossing the stage to receive their diplomas, graduates accepted gifts not only from the Student Government Association but also a special commemorative gift from the dean – glass blocks displaying the public health academic building, a New Orleans streetcar, and the school’s Centennial logo.
At the close of the ceremony, Buekens announced a rare transfer of power, naming clinical associate professor Ms. Penny Jessop acting dean for the rest of the event. Ms. Jessop, a 1978 alumna of the school, is retiring in June after 33 years of teaching. She finished off the day by reminding the graduates that they will forever remain connected to the school even as they now head off to all corners of the globe to put their degrees to work.