The School of Veterinary Medicine was founded in 1979, becoming the first and only veterinary school in New England, and in 1983 the first graduating class participated in Commencement, with 36 students earning their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees.
In 1980 The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (formerly known as the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences) opened and its graduates joined the Commencement ceremony. The School of Nutrition and Science and Policy, established in 1976 as the Graduate Department of Nutrition in the School of Arts and Sciences, officially began operation as a school in 1981 and joined the Commencement ceremony as well.
The 1980's saw a number of high-profile Commencement speakers. Ronald Reagan assumed the Presidency in January of 1981 and was invited by Tufts President Jean Mayer to speak at Commencement that spring. However, the invitation was not accepted although Tufts remained hopeful that a last-minute acceptance would come through. The Commencement speaker for 1981 was Sarah Caldwell, director of the Opera Company of Boston.
Although student activism was less apparent in the Commencement ceremonies of the 1980s than in those of the previous decade, two prominent political activists were included among the Commencement speakers: Elie Wiesel (1986) and Gloria Steinem (1987). Steinem's speech included a passionate defense of reproductive freedom and extended thanks to Justice Harry Blackmun, author of the Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade (1972). Other well-known speakers included Thomas P. (Tip) O' Neill, Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives (1985) and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (1983).