TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama will celebrate both May and August commencements Friday and Saturday, May 6-7 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Award-winning actress and UA alumna Sela Ward will give commencement addresses May 7. Ward, best known for her award-winning portrayals as Lily Sammler on “Once and Again” and Teddy Reed on “Sisters,” is a 1977 graduate of UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. She received two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for her work on “Once and Again” and “Sisters.”
May Commencement will include four separate ceremonies, all in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The ceremony for the Graduate School will be Friday, May 6, at 6 p.m. Two undergraduate ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday, May 7, at 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Ward will speak at both undergraduate ceremonies.
Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, will speak at the UA School of Law’s graduation ceremony May 7 at 1:30 p.m., also in Bryant-Denny Stadium. In case of rain, the law school ceremony will be held at Moody Music Building on the UA campus.
The Equal Justice Initiative represents persons on death row or persons who are accused of capital crimes. Stevenson’s work on behalf of condemned prisoners has won him national acclaim. In 1996, he was named the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers. In 1995, he was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award Prize. He also has received the Reebok Human Rights Award (1989), the ACLU National Medal of Liberty (1991), and the Thurgood Marshall Medal of Justice (1993).
The graduate and undergraduate ceremonies will be broadcast live over the Internet. Those who wish to view the ceremonies on the Internet can go to the main UA Web page at http://www.ua.edu/ to find the webcast link. The webcast will require the free Windows Media Player and a broadband connection.
This marks the first time in decades for commencement ceremonies to be held in the stadium. The venue change is due to renovations in Coleman Coliseum. The larger stadium setting will also allow for August graduates who choose to participate in the May ceremony to do so.
“Having the ceremony in Bryant-Denny Stadium — one of the best known landmarks on our campus — will make this Commencement particularly memorable,” said Dr. Judy Bonner, UA provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We have scheduled the large undergraduate ceremonies for early morning and evening out of consideration for our graduates and their families. We hope to enjoy the most pleasant times of day to be outdoors.”
The decision to allow August graduates to participate in the May or December ceremonies, rather than hold an August ceremony in the stadium, was also based on concern for the graduates and their families, especially elderly family members and young children, Bonner said. “The weather in August is just not conducive to a pleasant outdoor ceremony,” she said.
In the event of severe weather, a ceremony can be rescheduled for a time later in the day or evening. On Friday, May 6, if it is storming at 6 p.m. and the storm is passing over, the ceremony will be held later Friday evening. If it is impossible to hold the ceremony Friday evening, the ceremony for graduate students will be folded into the first ceremony on Saturday which is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. In the event that it storms all day Saturday and it is impossible to hold one or more of the Commencement ceremonies, any ceremonies that cannot be held Saturday will be postponed until Sunday, May 8 at 2 p.m.
Those attending any of the UA ceremonies should listen to WUAL, watch WVUA-7or check the UA web site to receive updated information regarding the time for the ceremony.
Ward’s additional television credits include the telefilms “The Reef,” “Double Jeopardy,” “Killer Rules,” “The Haunting of Sarah Hardy” and “Bridesmaids;” and appearances on television series “L.A. Law,” “Night Court,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Frasier.”
Her film credits include “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Havana Nights,” “The Fugitive,” “My Fellow Americans,” “Hello Again,” “Nothing in Common,” “Rustler’s Rhapsody, and “The Man Who Loved Women.
In 2002, Ward released her first book, “Homesick,” which appeared on The New York Times bestseller list. Part inspirational story, part memoir, the book tells Ward’s quest for a balance of the comforts of her small-town childhood and her big city way of life.
Until the mid-1990s, UA held only one Commencement ceremony each year. Those who completed their degrees in August, December and May all participated in the May ceremony.
The stadium has been the site of graduation exercises in the past, most recently in 1985 but more commonly in the 1960s and earlier. Built in 1929, Bryant-Denny Stadium celebrated its 75th birthday this academic year.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.