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Even after retirement, show goes on for Drake's voice of commencement

July 7, 2010
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Gary I. Wade

Gary I. Wade, associate professor of electronic media in Drake's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has been the man behind the voice of Drake University commencement for more than a decade.

After having mastered and recited tens of thousands of names of Drake's undergraduate and graduate degree earners, the University's May 16 ceremony marked Wade's last -- as a Drake professor, anyway.

Wade retired after the last graduate student crossed the Bell Center stage that Sunday afternoon, after also presiding over undergraduates in the morning ceremony. But the professor has agreed to continue in the volunteer role that he's come to cherish at Drake -- giving proper pomp and circumstance to the spoken names of his former students.

"It's a very important day for students, friends and family, and you want it to be dignified and to give the depth and volume to the name that makes each and every student feel important," Wade said.

Before coming to Drake, the Ames resident read the names of graduates at Iowa State University for 18 years while he served on the faculty there. Wade continues to serve as the public address announcer for ISU men's basketball, a role he's held for 30 years.

In his 12 years at Drake, Wade has taught courses in broadcast management, media literacy, corporate video planning and analysis, television methods for advertising majors and introductory television. He also taught graduate courses in social responsibility and the media.

Wade spent two weeks in the fall of 2000 in Turkmenistan, lecturing and working with students and Turkmen State University to produce student-based television programs.

In addition to announcing commencement, Wade will continue teaching Drake's first year seminar on media literacy. Both of his continuing roles encompass the two things he loves best at Drake -- working with students as they learn the broadcasting profession and being one of the first to congratulate them at the culmination of their academic careers.

Over the years, the professor has taught -- and read the names of -- students who have gone on to work as Hollywood scriptwriters, produce network television shows and manage New York ad agencies. In 2005 he was honored to read the name of his daughter as she crossed the Drake stage, a moment that earned him a hug and a huge round of applause from the audience.

"I'll be announcing names as long as they want me to," Wade said. "I like Drake a great deal, and it's been very good to me."