Largest Graduating Class to Hear Meese as Commencement Speaker

Posted: May 4, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jeremy Lasich

Edwin Meese
Edwin Meese
Photo by Evan Cantwell

A total of 6,298 students will graduate at George Mason University’s 37th annual commencement on Saturday, May 15, in the Patriot Center. Edwin Meese III, Board of Visitors rector and former U.S. attorney general, will deliver the commencement address. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m.

Of the graduating class of 2004–the largest in George Mason history–3,676 students are receiving undergraduate degrees and 2,378 will be awarded master’s or doctoral degrees. The School of Law will graduate 243 students.

George Mason’s oldest graduate is 82; the youngest is 18. Erin Vanover of Springfield, Va., is the student speaker. She will receive a bachelor’s degree in communication.

An honorary doctoral degree in science will be awarded to Vernon Smith, professor of economics and law at George Mason and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; an honorary doctoral degree in humane letters will be presented to Roger Wilkins, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History and American Culture. Meese and former George Mason University President George W. Johnson will receive George Mason Medals.

The George Mason Medal is the university’s highest honorary award and is given by the Board of Visitors. This medal is designed to honor George Mason, the man, and those receiving the award have a record of service to their community, state, or nation consistent with the level and quality of George Mason’s public service in his own time.

Meese holds the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, a public policy research and education institution. He is also a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Meese lectures, writes, and consults throughout the United States on a variety of subjects. On the Board of Visitors, he is rector and chair of the Executive Committee. He served as the 75th attorney general of the United States from 1985 to 1988. Before that service, Meese held the position of counselor to the president from 1981 to 1985. In that capacity, he functioned as the president’s chief policy advisor and had management responsibility for the administration of the cabinet, policy development, and planning and evaluation.

Johnson was appointed president of George Mason University in 1978. During his tenure, the university acquired doctoral status, established a law school, instituted 34 new programs, including 11 doctoral programs, and promoted arts education at Mason as well as in Northern Virginia. Johnson saw the building of campuses in Arlington and Prince William Counties as well as the extension of George Mason’s presence and influence throughout Virginia. Major facilities built during his administration include the Patriot Center, the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, Student Union II, extensions to the library, student residence halls, six new classroom buildings, and the Johnson Center. The Johnson era also saw the introduction of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in independent studies, the hiring of the eminent Robinson Professors to teach interdisciplinary courses to undergraduates, and the establishment of New Century College, built on the idea of loosening the confines of traditional education. Johnson retired in June 1996 and was named president emeritus by the Board of Visitors.

Smith is currently professor of economics and law at George Mason, a research scholar in the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, and a fellow of the Mercatus Center in Arlington. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Cal Tech and his PhD in economics from Harvard. Smith is past president of the Public Choice Society, the Economic Science Association, the Western Economic Association, and the Association for Private Enterprise Education. He is a distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association, an Andersen Consulting Professor of the Year, and the 1995 Adam Smith award recipient conferred by the Association for Private Enterprise Education. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1995.

Past chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, Wilkins came to George Mason with broad experience in public affairs. During the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, Wilkins served as assistant attorney general. In a distinguished journalism career, he has written for both The New York Times and The Washington Post, and he was associate editor of The Washington Star. While on the editorial page staff of The Washington Post, he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for Watergate coverage with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, and Herbert Block. His highly acclaimed autobiography, A Man’s Life, was reprinted in 1991, and he was co-editor with Fred Harris of Quiet Riots in 1988. Among an array of public service activities, he served as past chair of the Board of Trustees of the Africa America Institute and is a member of the Board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

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