Five things to know about Stanford’s Commencement

Convocation students

Richard Engel, a Stanford graduate who is the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, will be the 2015 Commencement speaker. Stanford’s 124th Commencement Weekend, which is June 12-14, will also feature a Baccalaureate address by civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. Read more about both. Commencement annually attracts about 30,000 people. So families are encouraged to make travel arrangements well in advance and to visit the website to get an overview of the entire weekend. Elaine Enos, executive director of the Office of Special Events and Protocol, shares five things parents should know as they prepare for Commencement Weekend 2015.

When should parents make hotel reservations for Commencement?

Consider making hotel reservations as soon as possible. For your convenience please visit the travel and lodging website for ideas. There are a limited number of hotels in the immediate Palo Alto area, so reservations can be challenging if you make them at the last minute.

Is there any limit to the number of family members who can attend the main graduation ceremony?

No. There is plenty of room in Stanford Stadium for everyone who wants to attend. Please note that the majority of the audience will be seated facing the sun and there are very limited shaded areas. Temperatures can climb into the 90s that day so please make sure everyone has comfortable clothing, we recommend hats, and lots of water and sun block. No umbrellas are allowed as they impede the view of others in the stadium.

Please note that diplomas are not awarded at the main ceremony in the stadium. It is at the department ceremony that students actually receive their diplomas. These ceremonies are shortly after the main graduation and are located throughout campus. Families should check with their graduate’s department about whether or not its ceremony has limited seating or will be ticketed.

What if families have a member who has difficulty walking?

If a member of your family is disabled or has mobility concerns, we strongly encourage you to plan in advance by visiting the Disability Resources page on our website. There is a form to request special assistance. For specific questions or concerns, please contact our Stanford’s Diversity and Access Office at: email:;
Voice: (650) 725-0326 or TTY: (650) 723-1216.

The campus is very large and we are limited in what we can do if asked to respond on the day of events. After the main ceremony in the stadium families will have approximately one hour to make their way from the stadium to their graduates diploma site. University staff will also be on hand throughout the campus to assist you with directions.

The Wacky Walk has become a Stanford Commencement tradition.
The Wacky Walk has become a Stanford Commencement tradition.

Many families may find it easiest to use a wheelchair to transport a disabled family member from one location to another. Or, it may be easier for you and your family to drive rather than walk to your graduate’s diploma site. The Diversity & Access Office can help you plan the best routes beforehand. For most families in general, it is simply a matter of allowing for more time.

I cannot stress this enough: Families should plan their campus activities early and before they arrive at Stanford if they have a member with mobility challenges. We’ve seen the experiences of families greatly diminished because mobility issues were so challenging for them.

Is there enough parking so that families can drive to the stadium for Commencement?

Parking is available in the lots surrounding the stadium for the Commencement ceremony, but it is limited, and some of the lots require a permit. It’s best to plan in advance by visiting the parking and transportation website. The campus will be very crowded throughout the day, and there will be a great deal of traffic congestion. The easiest way to get around the many events is by walking, so comfortable clothing and shoes are strongly recommended.

What is the Wacky Walk?

Most colleges and universities have a traditional processional graduation march. But at Stanford, seniors generally run onto the field in costumes that celebrate their college experiences. The Wacky Walk humor is often irreverent, but very amusing and celebratory. The Wacky Walk generally lasts for about 15 minutes before the ceremony begins.


For answers to more questions about Commencement, visit the “For Parents” part of the Commencement website. Call the Commencement information line at 650-725-1957 or send us an email by visiting this website. More answers to frequently asked questions are available at this website.