Doctorates hooded as part of tradition

University Provost Steven Lerman welcomed more than 270 of GW’s doctoral candidates into “the community of scholars” the evening of May 12, charging them to “keep their thirst for knowledge alive throughout their careers.”

Lerman and a faculty member placed a hood on the robe of each doctorate recipient representing the type of degree earned – a tradition dating back to the 14th century as a way to keep warm when the first Western universities began taking shape. Over the centuries, it has come to signify the designation of a doctor.

“Earning [a doctorate] carries a certain responsibility to intellectually challenge yourself throughout your life,” Lerman said. “Remember the faculty and friends that helped you get here, because once you leave, life becomes busy. Be generous with your time and knowledge to do service for others.”

A doctorate is considered the highest earned degree available in the academic world. The designation of doctor signifies that the holder has made an original contribution to knowledge and is ready to teach others how to make their own contributions.

University President Steven Knapp alerted graduates to the fact that they are now part of a community of 3 percent of Americans who hold the degree.

“You have been guided here by your intellectual curiosity, now let your passion for learning and commitment to service be your motivation for the future,” Knapp said.

Knapp described Jung-Sook Kim, who returned to Korea after receiving her doctorate. She chaired a special committee on women’s affairs, holds a position in the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea and is the head of the Girl Scouts in Korea.

Knapp, who received his doctorate from Cornell University in 1981, hopes that graduates can follow in the footsteps of successful alumni and make a difference.

“Today, as you leave GW, let your intellectual curiosity and commitment to service guide you,” Knapp said. “And always remember GW as your intellectual home.”

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