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Yale Protesters Note Apartheid At Commencement

May 27, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Without singing a single refrain, Ella Fitzgerald received a standing ovation from thousands as she picked up an honorary degree at Yale University’s 285th graduation.

Miss Fitzgerald was among 13 honorary degree recipients, including Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, archbishop of Manila, at Yale’s spirited Memorial Day graduation on Monday. About 3,188 students were presented with degrees.

At the commencement at Oberlin College, Flora Lewis, foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, discussed the U.S. bombing of Libya in her commencement address. Brown University and Bates College were among the schools also holding graduation ceremonies Monday.

An estimated 3,188 graduating students attended Yale’s 285th commencement, where President A. Bartlett Giamatti, who leaves the school next month, was given a standing ovation. Yale traditionally has no commencement speaker.

During the ceremonies, demonstrators protested Yale’s $400 million in stocks in companies that do business in South Africa. As the 65th Psalm was sung, students carried about a dozen small wooden coffins decorated with black bows to the foot of the graduation stage.

Demonstrators released dozens of black, green and yellow balloons as an honorary doctor of letters degree was presented to South African writer Nadine Gordimer, whose books include ″July’s People,″ ″Burger’s Daughter″ and ″A Guest of Honor.″

This spring, students asked Yale Corp., the university’s governing body, to divest. The administration said some investments in the country help to give it a voice in overcoming apartheid.

In protest, students constructed shacks representing shanties in black South Africa. During demonstrations, there were 322 arrests.

Giamatti, 48, leaves Yale on June 30 after eight years as its president. He will be succeeded by Benno C. Schmidt Jr., former dean of the Columbia Law School.

Miss Fitzgerald, who received an honorary doctorate of music, said she made her debut with the Chick Webb band at a Yale prom, probably about 1935.

″I’m just thrilled. This is where, you might say, that it all started,″ said Miss Fitzgerald, 68.

At Oberlin, Lewis spoke to 660 graduates, saying the attack on Libya missed those responsible for terrorist acts but brought about greater cooperation against terrorism among Western nations.

In Lewiston, Maine, 345 students received bachelor’s degrees at Bates.

Donald F. McHenry, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1979 to 1981 was the speaker, but alumnus Bryant Gumbel, co-host of NBC-TV’s ″Today″ show drew the most attention.

Gumbel, who was among those receiving honorary degrees, was a 1970 graduate and said his presence could show graduates they didn’t have to be perfect students to ″do something productive.″

Brown granted an honorary doctor of law degrees to former French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing, who did not address the 1,800 graduates but met informally with students and faculty.

At commencements Sunday:

- Helen Caldicott, the Australian physicist and anti-nuclear activist, spoke to the 126 law school graduates at Northeastern University in Boston.

″Each day, we live by the skin of our teeth. We have 30,000 nuclear bombs and the Russians have 20,000. At any time during the day, the nations could press the buttons,″ she said. ″We would, literally, have one hour to live. Imagine that the bombs have dropped on Northeastern University and we all have 10 minutes to live. What would you do?″

- Xie Xide, president of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, was the speaker at Mount Holyoke College, where 509 graduates received degrees during the 149th commencement of the women’s liberal arts school.

″Determination, diligence and devotion″ are the Golden Rules for the graduates, said Xie Xide, only woman head of a university in China. ″Bring this spirit with you in the future and you will be winners.″

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