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Interviewed by Troy Reeves
Interview with Bill Cronon

The only graduation ceremony I attended in my life was high school, primarily because my school’s valedictorian fell a bit short with his speech—he compared our graduating class to “The Brady Bunch”. After this disappointment, I didn’t see much point in ceremonies and chose to not attend my undergraduate graduation.

With my forthcoming graduation from the UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies, however, I will soon be confronted with the option to attend and eat cake or stay home and disappoint my friends and family yet again. After hearing about UW-Madison professor Bill Cronon’s honors convocation address, he has renewed my faith in graduation ceremonies.

In honor of both this year’s graduation and Earth Day, we share an excerpt from Cronon’s oral history interview. During his senior year at UW-Madison, he spoke at commencement. As you will hear, he chose this opportunity to push the boundaries of a senior’s speech by asking his fellow graduates and those in attendance to think about their physical environment—specifically preserving it—as they moved forward in their lives and careers.

More information about the oral history interview with William Cronon can be found here:

Photo of UW (Madison) Commencement, 1970.

Michelle Dubert-Bellrichard for UW-Madison Archives

For more information about this tradition or campus history, contact or visit On, Wisconsin!

Filed under UW-Madison William Cronon Earth Day Commencement campus history WIHistory madison history