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President Valerie Smith's Charge to Leo Braudy '63

Leo Braudy

This morning’s first speaker is Leo Braudy '63, University Professor and Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature at the University of Southern California.

The commencement program outlines many of Leo’s interests, activities, and publications. But I’d like to share with you something that’s not in your programs, a brief quotation from the person who knows Leo best—his wife, Dorothy, who is here with us today. Not to worry, Leo, it’s something good... I think.

Dorothy says this: “When I think of a scholar, I think of a person locking himself away for hours of serious research and scholarship. Leo is that, but also so much more. He’s always combined silliness with seriousness. He’s fun to be with…. And you should see him dance!”

Leo Braudy is a pre-eminent cultural historian and film critic. His scholarship and his commentary are distinguished by the ways in which he routinely crosses the borders between and among various disciplines—history and art, psychology and philosophy, film and literature.

And as for his abilities as a communicator, Leo is a scholar who can speak to and inspire both his academic peers and the average TV viewer.

A “polymath” is a person who knows a lot about everything. Last evening, we heard Leo described as a “polymath’s polymath.” We will soon understand why.

Leo Braudy, upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.