While Rendell, a former mayor of Philadelphia who is running for governor of Pennsylvania, is well-known, his analyzing of the Bush-Gore election didn't go over well with many UR students.
"It would have been nice for him to say something about the graduates," says senior Christina Kabala, who attended the ceremony. "What does a graduation have to do with the Electoral College?"
Rendell "was so inappropriate and offensive with his political views," says Kelly Gribbin, a senior who is a member of the commencement committee. "He really was the straw the broke the camel's back as far as speakers go and the president's office has been writing apology notes all year for it."
As a result, Gribbin and the other committee members met to redesign the ceremony and made the student speaker this year's main attraction. "The student speaker has been outstanding every year," Gribben says. "These speakers always have the personal focus that everyone can relate to."
And she says the committee is confident in its decision: "Having a big name may attract attention to the school, but this school is about giving attention to its undergraduates, so the decision is more in line with its mission."
This year's student speaker is Tim Sullivan, former student government president of Richmond College. "I love this place and see a lot of potential in my classmates," says Sullivan, whose speech will address what he believes the graduates owe to the future.
In addition to Sullivan, graduates will also hear from alumna Melanie Liddle Healey, Procter & Gamble's North American vice president for feminine care.
As for Rendell, he was away from his office and unavailable to speak with Style by presstime.