Boston University conferred degrees to thousands of its students today, but singled out two of its students who died before their graduation day.
Lu Lingzi, the graduate student killed in the marathon bombing, and Binland Lee, the senior undergraduate who died in a fire in her off-campus apartment last month, were honored posthumously on Sunday.
President Robert A. Brown also honored Lu’s friend seriously hurt in the bombing, Zhou Danling, and said that “we lost a prospective student,” eight-year-old Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard, who had hoped to attend BU one day.
Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp delivered the commencement address, in which spoke of the marathon bombings and Lu’s death.
“The world came to you at BU,” she told the graduates. “You saw its promise to students like Lingzi.”
In her speech, Kopp urged the graduates to not let inexperience hold them back.
“I’m a believer in the power of inexperience,” she said, adding, “The world needs you before you stop asking naive questions.”
According to BU officials, nearly 6,700 graduates and approximately 20,000 guests attended today’s 140th commencement at Nickerson Field.
Kopp, along with chemical engineer Robert S. Langer, United Methodist Church Bishop Peter D. Weaver, and Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, were awarded honorary degrees.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino was awarded a Boston University Medallion.
As Menino stood to receive the Boston University Medallion, the crowd erupted in a thunderous applause.
President Brown praised Menino for his commitment to education, particularly for “recognizing the role of universities and colleges and universities in strengthening the cultural life of the city,” he said.
Brown also announced that the university will name a merit scholarship program after the mayor, and that the recipients will be known as “Menino scholars.”
When presenting actor Morgan Freeman with his honorary degree, Brown highlighted his versatile career ranging from pimp, to convict, to president of the US, and twice playing the voice of God.
“Your voice alone should be sufficient to ensure stardom, but it is just one of many such tools to be found in your inventory,” Brown said.
As Freeman stood to receive his honorary degree, the audience shrieked with delight, chanting, “Speech! Speech! Speech!”
Freeman devised an impromptu speech, telling the graduates, “I have nothing new to say to you,” he said, adding “You already know you are graduating from one of the greatest universities on the planet.”
Katherine Landergan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.
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