RISD Welcomes the Class of 2024 into its International Alumni Community

mortaboard in foreground and RISD seal in background at Commencement 2024

On a picture-perfect June day, the RISD community came together to honor its newest graduates, the Class of 2024. Led by the raucous Providence Drum Troupe, 522 undergraduate and 253 graduate students marched into the Amica Mutual Pavilion as their loved ones looked on from the bleachers.

President Crystal Williams delivered the opening remarks before awarding honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees to local engraver and curator Nicholas W. Benson and Marva Griffin Wilshire, founder of Milan’s international design show SaloneSatellite. “Here you have been challenged to push your creative boundaries,” Williams told graduating students. “You are beautifully prepared for whatever comes next. Your toolbox is overflowing, and you’re in a position to enact and expand upon your dreams.”

Provost Ghadessi looks on as President Williams hugs a graduate student at Commencement 2024
student speakers at Commencement 2024
Above, Provost Ghadessi looks on as President Williams hugs a graduating student at Commencement 2024; below, graduate student speaker Lauren Blonde and undergrad student speaker Graciela Batista (photos by Jo Sittenfeld).

Master of Architecture Lauren Blonde MArch 24 presented this year’s graduate student speech, focusing on the recent solar eclipse and likening the rare confluence of celestial bodies to the unpredictable events that bring RISD students together. “We have taken circuitous, global and infinitely complex paths to get to this small school in the smallest state,” she said. “There is so much beauty in our diverse interests. From that diversity, unexpected moments and inventions happen—magical connections that will always live in our DNA.”

Undergraduate student speaker Graciela Batista 24 IL also talked about the importance of making connections. “Community is intentional,” she said. “It takes effort, care and patience. You will find it when you seek it. Community is urgent. Community is powerful. Community is radiant.”

after-ceremony lunch in Market Square with blue, pink and white paper lanterns above
happy alums with kids at RISD Craft 2024
Above, the RISD community was invited to a post-Commencement lunch in Market Square (photo by Dee Speaks); below, alums and their families at the RISD Craft sale on Benefit Street (photo by Jo Sittenfeld).

The ceremony was the centerpiece of Commencement + Reunion Weekend, a three-day gathering of families, friends and alums from near and far that included reunion dinners, the annual presentation of alumni awards, exhibition tours at the RISD Museum, the RISD Craft student and alumni art sale, a special WaterFire lighting and two Grad Hooding ceremonies.

Provost Touba Ghadessi welcomed grad students and their families to the Friday-afternoon hooding ceremonies, where graduate program directors from each department presented students earning advanced degrees with their regalia. “We’re here to celebrate RISD’s newest graduate alums with the honor and respect they deserve,” Ghadessi said. “RISD is a better place because of you. The world will be a better place because of you. We can’t wait to cheer you on as you carve your paths.”

Black Alumni Association tours the RISD Museum Nancy Prophet exhibition
alums dancing under purple lights at artist party 2024
Above, attendees of RISD’s inaugural Black Alumni Reunion tour the Nancy Elizabeth Prophet exhibition at the RISD Museum; below, alums and students cut a rug at artist party 2024 (photos by Dee Speaks). 

Later that day, RISD’s growing community of Black alums enjoyed a closing reception for the student-curated Black Biennial in RISD’s Gelman Gallery and the awarding of the President’s Medal of Honor to Dorothy W. Ford, who served as the coordinator of RISD’s Minority Affairs/Third World Office from 1973–2000. The events were organized in large part by the reunion planning committee and alums Vincent Brathwaite 20 ID and Rene Payne 83 GD as part of RISD’s inaugural Black Alumni Reunion.  

“Even in retirement, you continue to be a source of support, advice, advocacy and inspiration for many in the RISD community,” President Williams said to Ford at the ceremony. “Thank you for your passion and dedication to our students and our institution.”  

Watch the Commencement 2024 ceremony on YouTube.

Simone Solondz / top photo by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH
June 5, 2024

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