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What's the correct verb used by universities to say that someone oversees a graduation ceremony?

For example: An important person comes to the ceremony and gives a speech and presents the awards - someone like a prince or president.

Do we say: The Prince will oversee the graduation ceremony.?

Oversee gives too much of an impression of organizing it - which is not the meaning I'm looking for.

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I'd suggest presides over. –  Peter Shor May 30 '12 at 10:49
    
Also note that the person in such a role is typically called the "master of ceremonies". (But that's a noun phrase, not a verb, so it doesn't directly answer your question.) –  Jay May 30 '12 at 16:47
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4 Answers

I think the word you want is preside. You can find many examples of chancellors and other dignitaries presiding over commencement exercises.

Preside means: to occupy the place of authority or control, as in an assembly or meeting

It does not necessarily mean that this person organizes the commencement ceremony, but they take part in conducting it the day of the event.

One note: the person who gives an address at a graduation ceremony is called the commencement speaker. This person usually does not preside over the exercises, but is rather an honored guest (as Irene noted), invited just to give the speech.

You could also say simply that "the dignitary took part in the commencement exercises" if you think that he or she was not involved enough to preside over the exercises.

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I believe you are looking for the verb attend.

EDIT upon comment: I didn't realise that the guest was going to have an active part in the ceremony. In that case I'd say: The Prince will be the honoured guest of the graduation ceremony.

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Thanks Irene but 'attend' doesn't give the meaning of giving a speech and presenting certificates...and being the central person on the night. It seems too general. Thanks. –  nicholas ainsworth May 30 '12 at 10:31
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I am familiar with one suitable verb phrase:

The Prince will be the prize-giver at the graduation ceremony.

In a written announcement, you could describe his full role:

The Prince will be the guest of honour and prize-giver at the graduation ceremony.

The precise choice will depend a bit on the expectations of your hearers. I would expect the guests of honour at a graduation ceremony to receive an honorary doctorate and maybe make a short speech, but my expectations are conditioned by my own experience†. In a different country, or perhaps merely a different university, people may have different expectations of the role.

† Slightly off-topic, but my graduations didn't have any guests of honour.

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In the U.S., I have never heard the term prize-giver used in relation to a graduation ceremony. Is it common in the U.K.? Also, note that the OP requested a verb. –  JLG May 30 '12 at 12:58
    
@JLG, probably not common, because it's not a frequent subject of discourse, but I get enough relevant ghits to believe it wasn't just my school that used it. As to your second point, single-word requests are usually optimistic, especially when it takes 15 words to describe what you're looking for. I did point out that I was offering a verb phrase rather than a single word. –  Peter Taylor May 30 '12 at 13:23
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My American friend (without me having asked him this question) sent me a text out of the blue about the graduation ceremony and used the verb 'officiate'.

I looked on the web and found the following example:

'University of Utah to Graduate 7,659 Students on May 4...

University of Utah President David W. Pershing will officiate at the commencement.

The featured speaker is Ed Catmull, president and co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and a U alumnus, having received bachelors of science degrees in physics and computer science as well as a Ph.D. in computer science from the U. The student speaker will be Stefanie Roberson, who is receiving a bachelor of science degree in information systems.'

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