Though she had the mike for only 80 seconds during last month’s commencement ceremony, New York University dean Jo Ivey Boufford’s remarks certainly proved more memorable than those of honorary-degree recipients Quincy Jones and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.
Before sheepskins were conferred upon 308 master’s candidates from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Boufford – who has served in the Clinton administration and once ran New York’s municipal hospital system – spoke briefly from the stage in Washington Square Park, where 5,000 new graduates gathered on May 13. After noting that the school “enables students to transform their personal commitment into public leadership,” the Wagner dean attempted to refer to the university by its common acronym.
Instead, what came out was: “N-Y-Jew is a private university in the public service.”
As the large crowd began to murmur – and with trustees like Laurence Tisch and Martin Lipton looking on – Boufford repeated the line, this time saying “NYU.” Days after her remarks, Boufford circulated an apology letter in which she wrote that she was “deeply sorry” for “my verbal gaffe.” While Boufford promised that “next time, I will take a sip of water and slow down when I speak,” it is unclear how any H2O could have turned that “Jew” into a “U.”
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