COLLEGE STATION – A record graduating class is expected at Texas A&M University this week, with more than 6,800 students having filed to receive degrees. Texas A&M officials say the final figure will likely vary slightly but is still projected to eclipse the 6,262 total for the same period last year by a wide margin.
Graduation activities begin Thursday (May 12) with a commencement convocation highlighted by an address by James A. Baker, III. Baker served in senior governmental positions under three U.S. presidents — including Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury and is now a senior partner in the Houston law firm of Baker Botts.
Commencement convocation is a relatively new Texas A&M tradition in which all members of a graduating class have the opportunity to assemble together, along with family members and friends in an informal setting. It is a prelude to the degree candidates formally receiving their diplomas in subsequent ceremonies aligned by the academic colleges representing their major fields of study. Commencement convocation will be held at 5:30 p.m. in Rudder Auditorium.
Graduation exercises will be held Friday and Saturday (May 13-14) during five graduation ceremonies at Reed Arena. Listings showing days and times when each of the academic colleges and schools will be presenting their degrees can be viewed at http://graduation.tamu.edu/ceremon.html.
The last ceremony, scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Saturday, will include the commissioning of up to 92 graduating members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets into the military, with all four branches of the armed forces sharing in the new officers. The number being commissioned typically fluctuates slightly until the date of the ceremonies, but the current level of 92 is the highest in recent years, exceeding the total for last spring by 18. Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez Jr., who is in his first year as commandant of the Corps of Cadets, will be the commissioning officer.
That ceremony will be followed by the Corps of Cadets’ traditional Final Review, at which seniors will lead and march with their units for the last time and then be honorees when next year’s seniors move into leadership positions and guide their units through a second parade.
Commencement convocation, graduation ceremonies, commissioning and Final Review are open to the public.
The Association of Former Students will host its “Next Tradition” program in conjunction with the university’s graduation ceremonies. The program, designed to introduce new graduates to the alumni organization and its varied activities, will be conducted at the Clayton Williams Jr. Alumni Center before and after commencement convocation and from 11:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday and from 11:30 a.m. until 5:30 Saturday.
The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences will actually kick off graduation activities at 2 p.m. Thursday in Rudder Auditorium when it presents the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree to a projected 123 students expected to successfully complete the professional-level degree program. The commencement speaker will be Baxter Black, who is described as a “cowboy vet” who sings and writes poetry.
Also, graduation ceremonies will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday for the university’s marine-oriented branch campus, Texas A&M University at Galveston. A record 168 students have applied for graduation at ceremonies to be conducted at the Galveston Island Convention Center. The commencement speaker will be Dr. Stephen J. Curley, the first member of the TAMUG faculty to be named a Regents Professor by The Texas A&M University System.
Texas A&M’s other branch campus, Texas A&M University at Qatar, held commencement exercises Thursday (May 6) for 55 engineering graduates — an increase of 13 compared to the same period last year.
Baker, the university’s commencement convocation speaker, served as Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush and as Secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald Reagan. He also served as White House Chief of Staff for both presidents. Baker began his public service career in 1975 as Under Secretary of Commerce for President Gerald Ford.
Reflecting on his long career in public service, Baker in 2006 published his memoir, titled “Work Hard, Study . . . and Keep out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life.”
After his years of service in Washington, Baker returned to his hometown of Houston, where, in addition to his law practice, he participates in a variety of endeavors with national and international implications, including engagement with the Rice University think-tank that bears his name: the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.
“James Baker is a great American, a great Texan and a great public servant, and we are fortunate that he has graciously accepted our invitation to be Texas A&M’s spring commencement convocation speaker,” Loftin said. “I am confident that he will bring an inspiring and relevant message that will be of interest to our degree candidates, their families and others attending the event.”
Baker’s service to the nation has continued in recent years. He served in 2003 as Special Presidential Envoy for President George W. Bush on the issue of Iraqi debt. In 2005, he was co-chair with former President Jimmy Carter of the Commission on Federal Election Reform. In 2006, he and former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton served as co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel. More recently, he and the late former Secretary of State Warren Christopher were co-chairs of the National War Powers Commission.
Baker, who served as an officer in the Marine Corps, earned his undergraduate degree at Princeton University and his law degree at the University of Texas at Austin.