For Associate Dean Ruth J. Katz, J.D., M.P.H., the Class of 2001 will always be her first class. As its chosen speaker at Commencement this year, Katz recalled arriving at Yale in 1997 with this year’s graduates and learning with them. “I practiced on you as a rookie dean,” she told the 79 graduates. “We experimented together and discovered the marvels of this place and identified some of its … let’s just call them imperfections. We worked in small groups and went beyond simple problem-solving and critical thinking and helped to make significant institutional reforms. We sang, we danced and we laughed our way through the Second-Year Show.
“The Class of 2001 will always claim a piece of both my heart and my mind,” Katz continued. “I am honored to have been with you from the beginning. I am humbled that you have asked me to be with you in such a meaningful way at the closing.”
The medical school Commencement followed a University-wide ceremony that featured an address by President Bush, a 1968 Yale College alumnus and one of 12 people to receive an honorary doctorate. Sharing the stage with luminaries including actor Sam Waterston, former Treasury Secretary Richard Rubin and Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus, M.D., Bush spoke of his years as a Yale undergraduate. Before his arrival, scores of faculty members signed a petition protesting the awarding of the doctorate. They argued that it was too early in Bush’s term for him to have distinguished himself, and they objected to most of his policies, particularly on the environment. Some students agreed, and during the Commencement on Old Campus, they held up protest signs, booed and turned their backs on the president, while others cheered him.