An Uncommon Commencement
Two presidents give the Class of 2007 a memorable send-off

"Have you noticed the range of footwear?" asked Dana Hamel, watching from the bleachers as the Class of 2007 took their seats on a soggy football field for commencement ceremonies on May 19. "It's quite amazing."

The presidents enter Cowell Stadium accompanied by Secret Service agents and Meagan Wilson, 13, center left, the granddaughter of Dr. James Thomson '66, CEO of Rand Corp. Thomson (on right behind Clinton) received an honorary degree.

And it was. Sneakers and stilettos, L.L.Bean boots and sandals, flip-flops and loafers and even some snow boots paraded past the thousands of family members and friends in the bleachers. Many graduating women wore rubber boots decorated with hot pink stripes, black and white polka dots, red flowers or other funky designs, embodying both practicality and celebration.

Hamel and his wife, Karol--like everyone else who was allowed into the stadium before 8:45 a.m.--had plastic bracelets on their wrists, one small part of the event's elaborate security plan. The reason for all the security, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton, emerged just below where the Hamels were standing at about 10:15 a.m., escorted by their host, UNH Interim President J. Bonnie Newman. They proceeded to walk slowly around the oval track. Both men smiled and shook hands with the crowd, including the exuberant graduates who had preceded them onto the field, and who, despite repeated urgings for security reasons, refused to stay seated as the presidents passed.

"It's quite a coup Bonnie pulled off to get these speakers," noted Hamel, a longtime friend of UNH who has had two centers at the university named after him. Newman had an in: she'd worked for George H.W. Bush when he was the 41st president. Bush and Clinton have been working together to raise money for Hurricane Katrina and tsunami relief, and they appear together primarily for events related to those causes. Newman's coup was made even sweeter by a rumor--unsubstantiated, but not denied--that it would be their last joint public speaking appearance.

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