Five things for parents to know about Stanford’s 2016 Commencement Weekend

Stanford already has begun preparing for Commencement Weekend 2016, which will be held June 11 and 12. The event will attract some 30,000 people to the Stanford campus. Here are five things parents might like to know as they prepare for the big event.

Who is giving the Commencement speech this year?

Ken Burns
Ken Burns will be Stanford’s 2016 Commencement speaker.

Filmmaker Ken Burns will be Stanford’s 2016 Commencement speaker. He has directed and produced some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War, which is considered a masterpiece of filmmaking. He will be speaking at Commencement on Sunday.

On Saturday, during Baccalaureate, the speaker will be the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is a Stanford graduate and the first woman to serve as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Baccalaureate is also a very popular event for our graduates and their families.

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. But 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.

An important point is that the audience in the stadium will be seated facing the sun. There are very few shaded areas in Stanford Stadium. Temperatures can climb into the 90s that day so please make sure everyone has comfortable clothing. At many colleges and universities Commencement can be a formal occasion. It’s a little less so at Stanford, both because of the campus culture but also because the weather tends to make less formal clothing preferable. We recommend hats, comfortable shoes, sunblock and lots of water. Unfortunately, umbrellas are not allowed because they impede the view of others in the stadium.

When should parents make travel arrangements and hotel reservations for Commencement?

Consider making hotel reservations as soon as possible. Visit the travel and lodging website for ideas about where to stay. 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.

What should we do if a member of the family has difficulty walking?

If a member of your family is disabled or has mobility concerns, we strongly, 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 about one hour to make their way from the stadium to their graduate’s diploma site. University staff will also be on hand throughout the campus to assist you with directions.

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.

Where can we park?

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.

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.