When You Need a Fast-Talking Dean

At Hamilton, Pat Reynolds has mastered the art of reading names of graduates with speed and accuracy.

May 23, 2016
Pat Reynolds (right) presents an award at Hamilton commencement.
(Nancy L. Ford)

These days, many colleges and universities graduate so many people at a single commencement that the tradition of reading graduates' names is long gone. For smaller colleges, the tradition lives on. But many in the audience care only about the name of their child or loved one and lose patience waiting for those with names at the end of the alphabet.

Hamilton College may have found the perfect solution. Its dean of the faculty, Pat Reynolds, has been timed, and he reads the names of the nearly 500 graduates faster than any of his predecessors in the last 25 years. Hamilton knows this because an emeritus professor of biology, Ernest Williams, has been timing the reading of names for that long. And he certifies that Reynolds -- who some years gets in about 15 names a minute -- is far speedier than any of the five other deans Williams timed.

Reynolds did not set a record at Sunday's commencement, as he believes he gave an extra 0.4 seconds per name. Still, the program didn't stall.

Williams times the number of names at various one-minute intervals to calculate the names-per-minute statistic. Last year, he timed at nine different points and then determined the average. Williams does not count periods that tend to slow things down, such as the first and last graduate or someone crossing the stage on crutches.

Reynolds does not just aim for speed but for accuracy as well. He asks each graduate to email him a phonetic rendition of his or her name. And he also uses the NameCoach app in which students can record their names for him to hear.

You can see Reynolds in action below, setting out some rules so parents won't obstruct anyone's view or slow down the reading of names, and then launching into the list of this year's graduates.



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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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