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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 16, 2004

Willard Boyd Reads From Commencement-Speech Collection Nov. 23 On WSUI

University of Iowa President Emeritus Willard "Sandy" Boyd, Rawlings-Miller Professor in the UI College of Law, will read from "Never Too Brief," a collection of his UI commencement speeches that has just been republished, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

The free reading will be broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910. Listen on the Internet at

"Never Too Brief: Commencement Speeches During the 1970s and 1980s" was originally published in a limited letterpress edition of 50 copies by Holly Huffman, a graduate student in library sciences and a librarian in Washington, Iowa, through the Center for the Book. The redesigned 2004 edition has been printed in a run of 500 copies.

UI President David Skorton commented, "It's wonderful serendipity that the re-publication of President Boyd's commencement speeches coincides with the 50th anniversary of his association with the University of Iowa -- a period in which his remarkable and humane contributions have won him the respect, admiration and affection of everyone associated with the university.

"Entirely consistent with his character, President Boyd did not want us to draw attention to him by staging some formal celebration of his contributions. So instead, we will seize upon this event as an occasion to celebrate our half century of good fortune."

Boyd says that his brief addresses were deliberately designed to ensure that the graduates were the focus of the commencement events. "Many commencement talks have nothing to do with graduation," he says. "If you have a major outside speaker come, they talk on some subject of their choosing; they don't really talk to the graduates. Being a university that did not confer honorary degrees, we did not have outside speakers, so I took this event -- the one time the whole university got together -- as an opportunity to speak directly to the graduates and shake their hands."

Boyd's first commencement speech was delivered in 1970, a time of tumult following the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State -- events that he addressed in a speech that was so brief that it caught off guard the demonstrators, who were protesting that Boyd refused to close the university that spring. "It was over before they knew what had happened," Boyd recalls, "before the protest could even get started."

The title of the slim compilation of Boyd's succinct commencement speeches came from the advice of his wife, Susan, who always reminded him of the importance of brevity.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,