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Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City was awarded an honorary doctorate by Tufts trustees William Thompson Jr. (left) and Jonathan Tisch.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City was awarded an honorary doctorate by Tufts trustees William Thompson Jr. (left) and Jonathan Tisch. (David Kamerman/ Globe Staff)

Among NYC mayor's advice to grads: Call your mother

MEDFORD -- She could easily have moved to an empty seat in the back of the crowd, where trees shielded spectators from yesterday's showers, but the 98-year-old local woman with the red hair stayed in the front row, splashed with awkward attention from the Tufts University commencement speaker.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City was unabashed in his praise for the woman who brought him into the world, seated in the front row, third seat in from the center aisle as her son addressed graduates.

The local boy, a product of a Medford bookkeeper and dairy farmer, made it seem like Mother's Day had returned to Medford. The founder of the business news service that bears his name mentioned his mother, Charlotte, repeatedly in his 20-minute speech to the more than 2,100 graduates.

"Mother, I hope I'm not embarrassing you," Michael Bloomberg, 65, said at one point from the podium.

The attention didn't seem to bother the Medford resident -- who still lives in Bloomberg's childhood home, about 10 minutes from campus -- nor did the trickling rain on the muddy quad where she sat in a khaki raincoat, someone holding an umbrella over her.

Bloomberg first brought up his mother when discussing the honorary degree Tufts bestowed upon him: a Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa.

"My mother always wanted me to be a doctor," quipped the mayor , who earned a bachelor's at Johns Hopkins University and a master of business administration at Harvard.

He even tried invoking his mother's name to score points with the graduates, whom he assumed to be mostly New Englanders and Red Sox fans.

"You should know she dislikes the Yankees almost as much as most of you," he said. "She's never forgiven them for stealing Babe Ruth away -- when she was 10 years old."

But Michael Bloomberg, who was being trailed yesterday by two New York City tabloid reporters, did not say which team he roots for these days. He noted in his speech that he has thrown opening pitches for the Yankees and Mets, but made no mention of the Yankees' dismal spring.

Bloomberg, a Republican who is weighing a presidential run as an independent, was a hit among the graduates, although he caused one graduate from the Big Apple to slightly grumble.

"I love him, but I wish he made a shout out to us," said Dana Yoo, 22, of Queens. She earned a bachelor's in mechanical engineering and is a New York public schools graduate.

Bloomberg did not spend his entire speech talking about his mother.

Mostly, he joked about student life at Tufts -- what he's heard of it -- and he shared five principles of success: "You gotta take risks," "You can't do it alone," "Give it to them straight," "Respect others," and "The more you give, the more you get."

But even then, he paused for a moment, as if suddenly remembering his audience, and added a sixth principle: "Don't forget to call your mother."

"I do every day," he said.

After the mayor slipped off the stage, his mother finally left her seat. She then did what any other proud mother would do: She gave her son a hug.

Tufts University, Medford

Graduates: 2,437

Degrees: Doctorate, master's, bachelor's

Speaker: Michael R. Bloomberg, mayor of New York City

Honorary degrees: Bloomberg; Thomas Jefferson Anderson , music composer; Alec Broers, technology researcher ; Frederick H. Hauck, astronaut; Denise Jefferson , dancer; and Thomas C. Schelling , economist