Confetti and graduation caps fly as graduates celebrate at the close of Commencement.
Confetti and graduation caps fly as graduates celebrate at the close of the 2024 Commencement on Lawrence University's Main Hall Green. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Lawrence University celebrated its 2024 graduates at a festive Commencement held June 9 on Main Hall Green.

Pawo Choyning Dorji ’06, a Bhutanese filmmaker who earned a 2022 Oscar nomination, addressed the graduates as the Commencement speaker, urging them to embrace three aspirations: the need to learn and grow from failure; the importance of staying curious; and the understanding that everyone and everything is interdependent.

“Class of 2024, may your curiosity always be insatiable, may you always nurture and cherish your curiosity,” Dorji said. “May your curiosity take you to the most interesting of places, and may it empower you to live colorful lives.”

Pawo Choyning Dorji '06 speaks at the podium.
Pawo Choyning Dorji '06 delivers the 2024 Commencement address. 

See Commencement photo gallery; check back as more photos are added

Three faculty honored with teaching awards

Retiring faculty honored

Gandre speaks at Baccalaureate service

Commencement weekend speeches

Meet some of the 2024 graduates

The Lawrence faculty, led by faculty marshal Celia Barnes and attired in traditional regalia, processed across College Avenue and onto Main Hall Green at the outset of Commencement. They were joined by President Laurie A. Carter, Board of Trustees Chair Cory Nettles ’92, and honored guests Dorji and James Gandre ’81.

The faculty then lined the sidewalk leading to the stage in front of Main Hall, greeting the graduates as they processed to their seats—family and friends taking photos and video amid the cheers. The Lawrence University Graduation Band provided accompaniment, all under beautifully sunny skies. Main Hall, the oldest and most iconic building on campus, shined bright as a gorgeous backdrop, with giant video screens flanking both sides of the stage.

Dorji, the filmmaker, and Gandre, president of Manhattan School of Music, both would receive honorary degrees in recognition of their career accomplishments and commitment to Lawrence’s educational mission.

Of the 341 graduates who walked the Commencement stage, 272 received or will receive Bachelor of Arts degrees, 29 Bachelor of Music degrees, 27 Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Music Dual Degrees, and 13 Bachelor of Musical Arts degrees. They now join an alumni community more than 22,000 strong.

Monique Johnson '24 speaks at the podium
Monique Johnson '24 speaks to her classmates as the senior class speaker.

Senior class speaker Monique Johnson ’24 told her classmates they showed unbelievable strength in staying the course through the COVID-19 pandemic and then leading the reawakening of campus life as the pandemic waned. That same strength, she said, will serve them well going forward.

Lawrence has given us the blueprint to a successful life, and it is up to us to once again rise to the challenge,” she said. “Shine your light like the Lawrentian you are.”

Carter encouraged the graduates to stay connected to Lawrence, to lean on each other for strength in the days and years ahead.

“Let the Lawrence family be a source of comfort and care wherever your journey takes you and through whatever challenges you face and victories you celebrate,” Carter said. “Be a beacon for good in the community you will now call home, finding and spreading joy while living a life informed by compassion, empathy, and grace.”

In his Commencement address, Dorji spoke to the graduates about his journey since graduating as a government major 18 years ago. That journey included three years studying Buddhism with Tibetan monks and nuns at monasteries in the Himalayas and nearly a decade traveling the world as a photographer before trying his hand at filmmaking. His debut film, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, filmed in a remote village in Bhutan, would earn 25 international film awards and be nominated for a 2022 Academy Award—all after initial rejections that had him doubting his journey.

“To the Class of 2024, you will no doubt go through your own share of the shadows and dark periods of life, but I pray that through this experience of the shadows and darkness may you truly discover and appreciate the beauty of the light,” he said.

Dorji told the graduates that we all remain interdependent, likening the people and events and causes in life to a rainbow, “so vivid, so beautiful, yet so fleeting.”

“Yes, interdependence makes everything fleeting,” Dorji said. “But it is this fleetingness and transitory nature that breathes life into us and everything around us. A rainbow is beautiful because it is fleeting.”

A graduate gets a hug at Commencement.
Graduate Kenneth Penaherrera '24 gets a celebratory hug from Nicolas Manzanera '25.

Matt Murphy ’06, president of the Lawrence University Alumni Association (LUAA), welcomed the Class of 2024 to the alumni community and encouraged them to embrace that new status.

“Since I graduated, Lawrence has remained a true constant in my life,” Murphy said.

Johnson, a government major who was 16 when she arrived on campus from Brooklyn, New York, four years ago, said the Lawrence experience will stay with her and her classmates no matter where their journeys take them. From classrooms to life in the residence halls to student organizations and beyond, that experience has been life-changing.

“Lawrence became the home I never knew I needed,” said Johnson, who plans to pursue law school.

“Lawrence University is an astounding combination of a world-renowned conservatory and liberal arts college that bestows an education and lifestyle tailored to our individuality,” she added, urging her fellow graduates to always celebrate that.

“Be proud of who you are and your journey,” she said. “Most of all, be proud to be a Lawrentian. We can be everything and anything all at once, at least if the Lawrence busy is anything to go by. You have been students, activists, singers, dancers, musicians, scholars, researchers. … The point of the matter is that you have been extraordinary in these roles, but you are capable of being so much more. Lawrence has ensured of that.”

Graduate Evan Ney smiles as he walks through the Lawrence Arch following Commencement.
Evan Ney '24 joins his classmates in recessing through the Lawrence Arch at the close of Commencement.

Confetti burst in the air and graduation caps were tossed as Commencement came to a close. The graduates then recessed through the Lawrence Arch, near the intersection of College Avenue and Drew Street, part of what has become a tradition at Lawrence—first-year students now process through the arch during Welcome Week while graduates walk through the arch at the close of Commencement, providing a bookend to the Lawrence experience.

Families, friends, and fellow Lawrentians greeted graduates with applause, high-fives, and hugs as they made their way along College Avenue to a reception on the patio in front of Mudd Library.

These graduates, Carter said, leave Lawrence ready to embrace opportunities, take chances, lead, and change communities.

“Your Lawrence education has shown you the path to a lifetime of learning,” she said. “Without question, you are now better equipped to adapt, to innovate, to think critically, and to thrive.”