Gone viral

College commencements yield a few big stories every year: the big-name speakers and their words of wisdom, student and faculty protests of aforementioned big-name speakers, the stories of amazing graduates and more.

Wheaton found itself at the center of one such story this year, after welcoming NBC news anchor Ann Curry to campus for the 175th commencement. At the start of her speech, the Emmy Award-winning journalist expressed her admiration for the college’s distinguished graduates … the other Wheaton College’s graduates. She moved on, her audience recovered and she ended her speech to a standing ovation.

After she learned of her mistake, Curry apologized to the entire college community in an open letter. But that would not be the end of it.

The Boston Globe took note of the gaffe on the following Monday and the floodgates opened. Mainstream media outlets such as the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune covered the story.  The standard bearers of the new media universe (Huffington Post, the Talking Points Memo blog, Gawker.com, the Daily Beast, etc.)

U.S. News & World Report wrote about the remarkable way in which the news spread through the social media.

Whew! All this attention doesn’t even mention the 1.3 million times that the college’s video of her speech has been loaded (as of May 27) or the hundreds of tweets on the subject.

Our favorite comment, though, was posted by a member of the Class of 2010 on boston.com.

At first, I just assumed Curry was making a joke… until she mentioned Lesley Stahl, who *did* graduate from our Wheaton. Then I thought to myself, “well, that’s unfortunate…”

Regardless, Curry’s speech was really very good, besides that blunder, and she delivered it with a lot of emotion. The two other honorary degree recipients (Dr. Gillian M. Shepherd ’70 and Diana Davis Spencer ’60) gave excellent speeches, too. Ms. Curry’s apology, as others have said, was heartfelt and didn’t pin responsibility on someone else. My class was lucky to have her speak at our commencement.