The graduating class of 2004 will gather together May 1 at the
Big House to say farewell to the University — their home for
the past four years. It will be a day the seniors remember, as
their family and friends join them for the celebration.
But some students expressed disappointment with the chosen
commencement speaker, David Davis Jr., founder of Automobile
LSA senior Adam Paterno summed up his discontentment with Davis,
by saying, “It is mind-boggling that (the University)
Paterno also said he felt Davis, an automotive journalist, is
from a very narrow line of work. “I thought they would pick
someone who would be politically aligned with the University …
Someone who could really reach out to people from all countries and
from all walks of life,” he said.
Last year’s commencement speaker was Gov. Jennifer
Granholm. Michigan State University’s speaker this year is
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
LSA senior Amy Bass said Davis did not meet her expectations.
“We go to such a prestigious school, and I’m a little
disappointed because I expected someone big,” Bass said.
Bass added that her friends who go to the University of
Pennsylvania have Bono, lead singer of the band U2, as their
speaker. “I’m jealous that they get to have such a big
pop culture icon,” she said.
Although Bass admitted she had never heard of Davis prior to the
University’s announcement, she said, “I’m not
really excited, but I’m sure he could have some good things
University President Mary Sue Coleman has said Davis was chosen
to be the commencement speaker because he has significantly
impacted a big industry and Michigan as one of the nation’s
foremost automotive critics. Coleman said it is important for
University graduates to see how one person can have such a large
The commencement speaker candidates go through a rigorous
selection process, said Gary Krenz, special counsel to Coleman.
Krenz said traditionally the speaker is chosen from a list of
candidates for honorary degrees. This list is complied by a
Committee on Honorary Degrees. The committee is chaired by the dean
of Rackham and consists of faculty, students and administrators,
In addition, the committee receives and reviews honorary degree
nominations from faculty, staff, students and others. The committee
meets a couple times during the school year.
“The committee recommends eligible candidates —
persons of significant distinction and accomplishment — for
honorary degrees to the president and the board of regents,”
But ultimately the University Board of Regents approves on the
Budget reasons do not impact their decision, Krenz said. While
the University pays for the speaker’s travel and
accommodation expenses, they do not receive any pay for their
speeches, Krenz said.
“Getting a good, distinguished speaker is important, so we
would cut other aspects of the commencement budget first,”
Some past graduation keynote speakers at the University include
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, European Union President Romano
Prodi, authors Elmore Leonard and Charles Baxter and poet Philip