Over the past several days, students at Emory University and Goizueta Business School gathered with family, friends, faculty, and staff to celebrate a transformational rite of passage—commencement.

This year’s festivities took place at the Gas South District, just outside of Atlanta. Gregory L. Fenves, president of Emory University, says the decision was made to relocate to address safety and security concerns in light of the numerous protests sweeping campuses across the country.

The Courage of the Class of 2024

Robert Franklin, the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at the Candler School of Theology, acknowledged the change of venue for this year’s events when he welcomed undergraduates in the Class of 2024 to the university ceremony on Monday morning.

Franklin reflected on the unique challenges faced by this class, who graduated high school amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the courage with which they’ve faced it all.

“When the history books are written, those headlines will tell only a part of the story. What they will not capture is the depth of your resilience, your humanity, your thoughtfulness. They will not capture your countless daily efforts to lift others up and, even when it’s painful, to hear the perspectives of others, especially those with whom you disagree,” said Franklin.

Gareth James, John H. Harland Dean of Goizueta Business School echoed Franklin’s sentiments. “Our commencement festivities this year may look a little different. However, our commitment to honoring the immense achievements of this graduating class remains unchanged. I want to recognize our students, faculty, and staff who have continued to persevere.”

Graduate and Undergraduate Programs Celebrate in Diploma Ceremonies

Goizueta Business School’s graduate programs kicked off the celebration of commencement weekend with a diploma ceremony on Friday, May 10. James commended the graduates of the Evening MBA, Executive MBA, One-Year MBA, Two-Year MBA, M.S. in Business Analytics, Master of Analytical Finance, as well as those securing dual degrees for their dedication and resilience.

During his remarks, James focused on the students and their accomplishments. “In our newest graduating class, I see enormously talented and principled leaders. You are ready to solve the biggest challenges of our future,” James said. “I cannot wait to see where you go next, the ways you will continue to thrive, and how you will leave your mark on the world around us.”

Tiffany Willis 15EMBA addresses the class of 2024

Tiffany Willis 15EMBA, vice president and head of investor relations and ESG Engagement, Starbucks, delivered the keynote address during Friday’s diploma ceremony. “Over the next 10 minutes, I hope to pour into you, the same way Emory has poured into me when I was here for my graduate degree,” shared Willis. As graduates embark on their next chapter, Willis encouraged them “embrace the hustle, maintain the momentum, own your narrative, remember your why, and yield to your wildest dreams.”

The undergraduate Bachelor of Business Administration diploma ceremony took place on Monday, May 13. During the ceremony, James shared, “As I look at our graduating BBA class, I am filled with tremendous pride, gratitude, and optimism. You are the toughest group of students we have ever graduated.”

Andrea Hershatter, associate dean of undergraduate education at Goizueta, recognized legatees and kicked off the diploma ceremony. “One of the most gratifying moments at commencement is celebrating the continuation of family legacies. It is a great moment when a parent, grandparent, or sibling passes the Emory torch to another family member. This creates a deep bond between the university and that family.” Hershatter then recognized the full lineup of new graduates as they crossed the stage.

Emory University Commencement Keynote Address Delivered by Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD

Valerie Montgomery Rice MD

Valerie Montgomery Rice MD, president and CEO of Morehouse School of Medicine, served as Emory’s 2024 Commencement speaker. Montgomery Rice is a groundbreaking physician-scientist and university leader. She has worked tirelessly to foster diversity within the medical profession and the scientific workforce. “She wants to hold the door open so that others can follow and find success in their career and lives,” explained Fenves. During Montgomery Rice’s time as president and CEO, the Morehouse School of Medicine has solidified its reputation as a “powerhouse in the advancement of health equity,” he added.

Montgomery Rice has strong ties to Emory, having completed her medical training at the School of Medicine. She began her remarks by reflecting on her experience studying at Emory. She trained at both Emory University Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital—two facilities with quite different patient populations. However, during her training, she witnessed her professor treat patients at both hospitals with the same expertise and respect. This experience helped set the foundation for her commitment to health equity.

Advice for the “School of Life”

Speaking to students who mostly began their Emory careers in fall 2020, Montgomery Rice noted this was the first educational milestone many were able to celebrate in person. And while their time as Emory students ended that morning, she explained, their time in the “school of life” was just beginning.

Getting here is a great accomplishment. But having traveled this road, I can only imagine that for some of you, it wasn’t easy.

Keynote speaker Valerie Montgomery Rice MD

“Maybe you had to work two or three jobs. Perhaps you struggled to get passing grades. Or maybe you had to change directions when you figured out the career path you thought you wanted no longer fit for your future,” she said.

On this “first day in the school of life,” she left students with a homework assignment: to hug the people in their support systems and share how grateful they are. After all, nobody got here alone.

“Many of you will do great things. However, to graduate from the school of life with a cum laude degree, all you have to do is one thing,” Montgomery Rice said. “That is to do the best you can with what you have. And remember to listen, learn, include, and grow.”

“The world may not be ready for you, but I am confident you are ready for the world.”

During the ceremony, Montgomery Rice received an honorary degree. Emory also awarded honorary degrees to violin virtuoso Robert McDuffie and the president of the National Academy of Medicine, Victor J. Dzau MD.

Onward and Upward for the Class of 2024

As faculty, staff, students, parents, and loved ones cheered on the Class of 2024, they celebrated the graduates’ bright futures ahead.

President Fenves encouraged graduates to take a moment and bask in the glow of their achievements. He reminded the Class of 2024 that they were surrounded by those they love the most. “Enjoy this moment of accomplishment. In the years ahead, you will strive to achieve new goals. But right now, take one more look around at your friends and your family. Appreciate this experience. You have reached a milestone in your life. It is you who did this. You made it happen. Savor it, enjoy it, celebrate it.”

Dean James shared his enthusiasm with the graduates as well, now the newest alumni of the school’s dynamic network. “Ultimately, Goizueta will be judged based on the graduates we produce. I’m incredibly proud to lead your school. A major reason for that is all of you sitting out there. You are ready to go out to prove, yet again, what an amazing school we have. You now have the honor and privilege to call yourselves Emory Goizueta alums. Congratulations to the graduates of the Class of 2024!”

Congratulations to our Goizueta graduates! Read more stories from commencement here.

Enjoy even more images from this year’s commencement festivities below.