The third Monday in May

Director of Landscaping Jim Coffey keeps up with Commencement's fascinating facts.

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Jim CoffeyWhen did it rain? Did we really once have a solid white tent? Since 1991 Jim Coffey, director of landscaping services, has kept a log of Commencement notes from that historic third Monday in May.

1991 — The rain plan went into effect for the first time at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. All went well and we finished early.

1993 — The year of 8,000 chairs, up 2,000 from 1987.

1994 — Commencement started on the Quad at 9 a.m. instead of 9:30 a.m. so we could beat the heat.

1995 — We added 500 chairs, making a total of 8,500.

1996 — The year of the great heat wave. We distributed 8,500 bottles of water.

1999 — We added another 500 chairs, making a total of 9000.

2000 — Instead of constructing and painting the platforms, we rented them and also had a new completely white tent. We added another 1,000 chairs, making a total of 10,000.

2001 — It rained on and off during the ceremony. Former First Lady Barbara Bush was the speaker, and we changed back to the yellow and white tent.

2002 — It was the first year for the Divinity School to graduate a class.

2003 — Rainy and cold; 52 degrees.

2004 —  First year for Physician Assistant program graduates; Gen. Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State, was the speaker.

2005 — President Thomas K. Hearn Jr.’s last Commencement.

2006 — President Nathan Hatch’s first Commencement.

2007 — We added 2,000 more chairs bringing the total to 12,000

2008 — We added two big-screen televisions to the Quad to broadcast event to the audience on the back side of the Quad.

2009 — Vice President Joe Biden gave the Commencement address.

2010 — Manchester Plaza now being used for a graduate school ceremony on Commencement Monday. Another set up with 2,700 chairs. This year the Babcock School of Management used this site. Rained out this year. We went to the Coliseum.

2011 — Commencement Speaker Indra K. Nooyi, Pepsico CEO, came with 9,000 bottled Pepsi products to give away to Commencement guests.

2012 — New Registrar Harold Pace’s first Commencement and a significant change is to hand out diploma covers to every graduate.

2013 — New Provost Rogan Kersh’s (’86) first Commencement.

2014 — Speaker Jill Abramson was fired from her job just days before Commencement, creating a media frenzy. Set up second media stage because of it.

2015 – Comedian, political satirist and keynote speaker Stephen Colbert began with, “Of course for you grads, the future is a dark chasm of yawning uncertainty. But don’t worry. You don’t have to face the future for like two hours — first brunch then yawning uncertainty. But for now, you are still nestled in the beautiful, comforting bosom of Wake Forest.”

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