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Seamus Heaney’s “Verses for a Fordham Commencement”


Seamus Heaney at the 1982 Commencement.

It was a rain soaked commencement in 1982 when Seamus Heaney delivered the 137th commencement address to students of Fordham University on the Rose Hill campus. Heaney read a 46-stanza poem written in metrical verse, “Verses for a Fordham Commencement,” to a wet crowd of 3,000 graduates who had been moved from Edwards Parade into the gymnasium. Fellow honorary degree recipients former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Muppet creator Jim Henson accompanied him onto the stage.

In the days that followed The New York Times ran a picture of the soaked graduates on Page 1 along with a selection from Heaney’s verse. The commencement made national headlines, including in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner under the headline, “Fordham Flash–or, sure things get bad but they rarely get verse.”

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