Class of 2024 graduates received a surprise gift of $1000 each from an anonymous donor 

By Crown Family School

News Type
Crown Family School News

Nearly 200 graduates of the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice processed into Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in gowns and stoles on Friday morning for the celebratory 2024 Hooding Ceremony, as their professors, family members, and friends cheered them on, not knowing a special gift would soon be announced. During the hooding ceremony, all graduate students receive their hood,  a piece of academic regalia made from a large satin fabric placed over their shoulders. It indicates earning a master's or doctoral degree. 

After the Class of 2024 was seated, the ceremony began with a somber tone as the family of Ryan Letcher received his hood in memoriam. The audience in the filled-to-capacity Rockefeller Memorial Chapel applauded the family in support as they left the pulpit in Ryan's honor. 

After all of the students in the master's in social sector leadership, master's in social work, social policy and social administration, and the doctoral program received their hoods, Dean Deborah Gorman-Smith made a surprise announcement. An anonymous donor gifted all graduates of the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice Class of 2024 each $1,000 as they begin their professional journey.

After the announcement, the chapel was initially quiet. Still, the graduates slowly erupted in loud celebratory cheers and applause after realizing what Dean Gorman-Smith had said moments before.  

Two women in graduaton regalia embrace in excitement
Photo Credit: Beto Defreitas

The generous alum and long-time friend of the Crown Family School preferred to remain anonymous but did give remarks to the dean to read aloud as a message to the graduating class. The donor implored the recipients to do whatever they chose with the financial gift.  

“I don’t much like surprises, but I am hoping that this small, unexpected gift will give you some moments of joy and renewal," Dean Gorman-Smith read from written remarks on behalf of the donor.

"I am delighted to be a small part of your festivities in completing this chapter. Carrying the burden of making the world a better place can be exhausting.  Celebrate this achievement. Do something unexpected. Do something for you---go jump in Lake Michigan, go two-stepping, visit your family, buy a trombone, enroll in a yoga class, celebrate, celebrate! Know that change happens slowly. The road is long," Dean Gorman-Smith read. 

The donor's remarks continued: "We awaken many mornings questioning ourselves and our work. I pass on to you this talisman of hope and belief in the rightness and resilience of the world, written beautifully by Mary Oliver and often sustaining to me." The poem reads:

A Thousand Mornings

“All night, my heart makes its way

however it can, over the rough ground

of uncertainties, but only until night

meets and then is overwhelmed by morning,

the light deepening, the wind easing, and just waiting, as I

too wait (and when have I ever been disappointed?)

for redbird to sing.”

"My best wishes carrying on our work. Spend yourselves in worthy causes. And remember to have some fun!" said Dean Gorman-Smith, completing the donor's remarks.