Justice Clarence Thomas ’71 Receives Honorary Degree from Holy Cross

In remarks, gives praise to President Emeritus Fr. Brooks
January 27th, 2012 by 


The Academic Convocation program.


Fr. Boroughs delivers welcoming remarks.


Students, faculty and staff applaud after Fr. Brooks reads the honorary degree citation.


Justice Thomas delivers his remarks.


Justice Thomas receives a standing ovation after accepting the honorary degree and delivering remarks. From left, Frank Vellaccio, senior vice president, Fr. Brooks, Michael Lochhead, vice president for administration and finance, Justice Thomas, Jacqueline Peterson, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, and Fr. Harman.


Rev. Paul Harman, S.J., vice president for mission, gives the blessing.


Students sing the Holy Cross alma mater.


The Hogan Ballroom was at capacity for the event.


From left, Fr. Brooks, Brady and Justice Thomas during the panel discussion.


Timothy R. Austin, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, served as emcee at the event.


Fr. Brooks reads the honorary degree citation as Justice Thomas looks on.


Brady signs a copy of "Fraternity" for Jane Sullivan Roberts '76, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Major, Lindsey & Africa, and former member of the Holy Cross Board of Trustees.


Brady signs a copy of "Fraternity" following the event.


Brady and Thomas share a laugh.


Fr. Brooks answers a question posed by Diane Brady, the author of "Fraternity," during the panel discussion.


Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J. ’49, president emeritus, reads the honorary degree citation for Clarence Thomas, right, associate justice of the United States. At left is Rev. Philip Boroughs, S.J., president of Holy Cross.


Justice Thomas laughs while taking part in the conversation about “Fraternity” that followed Academic Convocation.


Fr. Boroughs places the hood on Clarence Thomas during the Academic Convocation held in the Hogan Campus Center Ballroom.


Fr. Boroughs looks on as Justice Thomas and Fr. Brooks embrace after the honorary doctor of laws degree was conferred during Academic Convocation.


Justice Thomas delivers remarks before a capacity audience in the Hogan Ballroom.


Justice Thomas stands with Fr. Brooks.

Stating how deeply humbled he was, Clarence Thomas ’71, associate justice of the United States, accepted an honorary degree from Holy Cross during Academic Convocation on Jan. 26.  Before a capacity audience in the Hogan Ballroom, he delivered a moving address — at one point pausing to collect his emotions —and expressed gratitude to Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J. ’49, president emeritus, for his mentorship and for the connections and intellectual growth he experienced at the College, in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The honorary degree was presented in recognition of his legal career, service to the College as a former trustee, and especially to students who study in the Washington Semester Program, and his tenure on the nation’s highest court.

“I must say that I’m a little embarrassed and uncomfortable receiving this honor for doing what I’m expected to do as a graduate of Holy Cross and required to do as a citizen for this great country,” he told students, faculty and staff in the Hogan Campus Center Ballroom. “I am appreciative and humbled and I’m unworthy yet I am profoundly and deeply honored. It is I who should be honoring Holy Cross and all the wonderful teachers, administrators, and staff who helped me more than four decades ago. And it is I who should be boldly expressing my gratitude for all that they did for me.”

In the traumatic wake of Rev. Martin Luther King’s murder, Justice Thomas had quit the seminary where he was studying to be a priest, and been kicked out his home by his grandfather. He said he would not be where he is today without Fr. Brooks, and the education he received at Holy Cross left him a changed man.

“From predestination to existentialism and from natural law to nihilism, Holy Cross required that I travel the disciplined and rugged terrain of theory and thought of the transcendent and the palpable,” he said. “It is here that I enjoyed the first brief glimpses of what it meant to be educated. It is here that I came to enjoy classical music and reading. It is here that I tried to exchange the cloak of animus and self-pity for that of hopefulness and charity. It is here that I tried to sort out the difference between collectivism and individualism and came to treasure the latter and abhor the former. It is here that I came to more fully understand deferred gratification, struggle and commitment.”

Thomas said it was the College that also helped him find his faith once more: “It was here directly in front of the [St. Joseph] chapel, on the morning of April 16, 1970 that I promised Almighty God that if he took hate out of my heart, I would never hate again. He did, and I have not.”

In his remarks, Thomas talked about his relationship with Fr. Brooks, whose commitment to the ideals of equality and social justice, brought him and scores of other African-American men to Holy Cross.

“When all is quiet at the end of this life, I hope that those few, those very few, who might have cause to remember that one day long ago,” Thomas said before pausing to hold back tears, “a lonely kid from Georgia had no place to go, and when they wonder who took him in and helped him to heal and to prosper, let them hear their answer in the quiet whispers of the wind sweeping across Mount St. James: the Cross, the Cross, always the Cross.”

In his welcoming remarks, Rev. Philip Boroughs, S.J., president, emphasized the importance of the event.

“It is highly unusual for the College community to convene outside of Commencement season to confer an honorary degree on an individual, so indeed today is a very special day,” he said.

Following the convocation, Diane Brady, author of the critically-acclaimed book, “Fraternity,” which follows five African-American men, including Thomas, through Holy Cross and their relationship with Fr. Brooks, conducted a lighthearted question-and-answer session. Their discussion touched on many topics, including the atmosphere at the College in the late 1960s, the protest that served as the African-American students’ bold statement against racism at the College, and the importance of children’s education and a liberal arts education.

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Comments (1)
  1. Robert J. Mitchell, '52 says:

    Justice Thomas deserves this honor from Holy Cross more than anyone I know. His book of his life is incredibly inspiring. His personality is marvelous. Several years ago, in January, he was visiting here in Palm Desert, CA, when I spotted him in the congregation as I was lectoring. After Mass, I introduced myself as a fellow Crusader and his bear hug literally took my breath away!! He graciously spent over half an hour speaking with my friends at Sacred Heart Church about the glory of this country. What a Man! May God continue to Bless his work on our Supreme Court. The country REALLY needs him there at this time in history.

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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/24/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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GE Meet & Greet Session
9/25/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Come meet with GE to learn more about their internship program.Selected...
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Christie's Education Graduate Art Program Information Session
9/25/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406
Come learn about Christie's Education, of Christie's Auction House,...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/25/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/25/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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7 C's of Social Change Part 2
9/26/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/26/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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GE On-Campus Recruiting
9/26/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about opportunities at GE...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/26/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Nielsen Meet & Greet
9/27/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406
Meet & Greet to learn about the Nielsen Company and finance internships...
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Meredith Terretta Lecture
9/27/2017
Africana Studies
Smith Laboratories 154
Open to the Public
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/27/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Putnam Investments On-Campus Interviews
9/27/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with Putnam Investments!...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/27/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Environmental Studies Alumni Career Panel
9/28/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Come hear Holy Cross Environmental Studies alums talk about their...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/28/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
See More >>


Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/28/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
See More >>


Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/29/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/29/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
See More >>


Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/30/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery Open to the Public
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/30/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Male Involvement Coalition (MIC)
10/2/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
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Women in Finance Panel & Networking Event
10/2/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A/B/C -4th Fl
Hors d'oeuvres and networking following by an alumnae...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/2/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Deloitte On-Campus Interviews
10/2/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about opportunities at Deloitte...
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 5
Open to Campus Community Only
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 4
Open to Campus Community Only
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 3
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
Open to Campus Community Only
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/3/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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RSM On-Campus Recruiting
10/3/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with RSM! Open to Campus...
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RSM On-Campus Recruiting
10/3/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with RSM! Open to Campus...
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Lecture: Julie Rubio on Hope for Common Ground
10/4/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
In the current political climate, common ground can seem impossible...
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7 C's of Social Change (Event canceled)
10/4/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/4/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Silicon Valley Bank On-Campus Interviews
10/4/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with Silicon Valley...
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Race: The Power of an Illusion Part 2
10/5/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 519
*Episode II – “The Story We Tell” uncovers the roots...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/5/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
See More >>


EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 403
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/6/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/7/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery Open to the Public
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Finance Boot Camp 2017
10/9/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Edith Stein Hall 208
Open to Campus Community Only
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Finance Boot Camp 2017
10/10/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Smith Laboratories 155
Open to Campus Community Only
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Male Involvement Coalition (MIC)
10/16/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Lecture: Kevin Esvelt on Gene Editing
10/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Kimball Hall Seelos Theater
When should we edit nature? Kevin Esvelt, assistant professor of M.I.T....
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Lecture: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on Googling for Hate
10/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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Carney, Sandoe & Assoc. Info Session
10/16/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304
Learn more about K-12 Teaching and Administrative positions at private...
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Lecture: Richard Higgins '74 on the Riddle of Thoreau's Religion
10/17/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Holy Cross alumnus Richard Higgins '74 will give a talk titled,...
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Carney, Sandoe & Assoc. On-Campus Interviews
10/17/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Apply in Crusader Connections for K-12 Teaching and Administrative...
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Reading by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
10/18/2017
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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William James College Info Session - Careers in Psychology and Behavioral Health
10/18/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Come to this info session presented by Dr. Bruce Ecker of William James...
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Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/19/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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Fidelity Investments On-Campus Recruiting
10/20/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about and apply for opportunities...
See More >>


Fidelity Investments On-Campus Recruiting
10/20/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about and apply for opportunities...
See More >>


Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/20/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/21/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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COES Dinner
10/23/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
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Book Launch: Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits
10/23/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Help us commemorate the newly published Cambridge Encyclopedia...
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Athlete Alumni Networking Night
10/24/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
The Holy Cross Career Crusaders Networking Night is...
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Athlete Alumni Networking Night
10/24/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
The Holy Cross Career Crusaders Networking Night is a...
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Lecture: Charles Camosy Looks Beyond the Abortion Wars
10/24/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University,...
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Washington Semester Program Information Session
10/24/2017
Center for Interdisciplinary Studies
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
The Washington Semester Program is a highly competitive, semester-long...
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Open Enrollment Assistance
10/24/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


7 C's of Social Change
10/31/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Lecture: Alan Rosen on Jewish Religious Life and Practice During the Holocaust
11/1/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Alan Rosen, Kraft-Hiatt scholar-in-residence, will give a talk...
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Poetry Reading by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
11/2/2017
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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Black Student Union Presents "Griot"
11/3/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Ballroom & Dunn Rcpt
Open to the Public
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Open Enrollment Assistance
11/3/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Lecture: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on Googling for Hate
11/6/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former Google data scientist and author...
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Creating an Inclusive Campus: Skills and Practice
11/6/2017
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
This workshop will take diversity and inclusion from theory to...
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Race: The Power of an Illusion Part 3
11/10/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 519
*Episode III – “The House We Live In” focuses not...
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Matthew Hughey Lecture
11/13/2017
Africana Studies
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
See More >>


Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu (Event canceled)
11/15/2017
Asian Studies
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
Open to the Public
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Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/15/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
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"I Can't Remember What I Just Read!"
11/16/2017
Academic Services and Learning Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(07)
Learn strategies to focus your attention and get more out of the...
See More >>


Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
See More >>


Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/17/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
See More >>


Open Enrollment Assistance
11/21/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Study Smarter, Not Harder!
11/28/2017
Academic Services and Learning Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Why is it so hard to remember what you just heard in lecture or...
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Lecture: Quayshawn Spencer on a Radical Solution to the Race Problem
12/1/2017
Philosophy
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Quayshawn Spencer, assistant professor of philosophy at the University...
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See All