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UConn Advance

Fiondella, Lee, Katz among commencement speakers
Most honorary degrees to be awarded during graduate ceremony
By Richard Veilleux
April 25, 1997

Robert W. Fiondella, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Co., and David M. Lee, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1996, have been selected to speak at undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies next month.

Fiondella, who also will receive an honorary degree, joined Phoenix in 1969 after graduating from the School of Law. He will speak during undergraduate ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 17. Lee, who earned a master's degree in physics at UConn in 1955, will deliver the commencement address to nearly 2,000 graduate students at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 18.

Also Sunday, honorary degrees will be awarded to industrialist Aaron Feuerstein of Lawrence, Mass.; movie producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr.; financier Norman Hascoe; psychologist Alvin M. Liberman; Rex Nettleford, a historian, writer, dancer, and academic; and Antonia Pantoja, who in 1995 won the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her tireless work in the educational and leadership development of Puerto Rican youth in the United States and in Puerto Rico.

And William C. Steere Jr., chairman and chief executive officer at Pfizer Inc., will receive an honorary doctor of science degree May 22 during ceremonies at the UConn Health Center.

In another ceremony, at 10 a.m. May 18, Joette Katz, a Connecticut Supreme Court justice and UConn Law School graduate, will deliver the commencement address to about 225 graduates at the law school on Elizabeth Street in Hartford.

At 7 p.m. May 17, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert E. Larned, director of imagery systems acquisition and operations at the National Reconnaissance Office, will commission Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) cadets from UConn and several other Connecticut colleges as second lieutenants.

At the Health Center at 6 p.m. May 22, Sherwin Nuland, author of the critically acclaimed How We Die, and a former surgeon at Yale-New Haven Hospital, will address graduates of the schools of medicine and dental medicine.

Community leader
The largest crowd belongs to Fiondella, who will speak to an anticipated 2,850 new graduates, their families and friends.

As chairman, chief executive officer and president of the Hartford-based insurance and investment management company since 1994, Fiondella has emerged as a leader in the Hartford area, putting his firm in the forefront of sponsors for the 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the 1997 Special Olympics World Winter Games, and as a Gold Sponsor of the Connecticut Special Olympics team. He is chairman of the Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce, honorary chairman of the Canon Greater Hartford Open golf tournament and served as co-chair of the Hartford Presidential Debate '96 committee. He also is co-chair of "Working Wonders," a Hartford summer youth jobs program.

Fiondella earned his bachelor's degree at Providence College in 1964.

Lee, a professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University, in October joined his Cornell colleague, Robert C. Richardson, and Douglas D. Osheroff, a professor of physics at Stanford University, in winning the Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery of the superfluid helium-3, a breakthrough in low-temperature physics.

Superfluidity is a phenomenon that occurs when temperatures approach absolute zero (-273.15 C). At these temperatures, atoms lose their random movement patterns and begin moving in a coordinated manner. Liquids cooled in this fashion are known as quantum liquids.

Lee and his team were able to generate temperatures to a few thousandths of a degree above absolute zero. Their intent was to find a phase transition where helium-3 displays a magnetic quality but, instead, they found two. The discovery kicked off large-scale investigations into the new quantum liquid and gave rise to a more sophisticated understanding into the laws of quantum physics.

Besides his UConn degree, Lee earned a bachelor's degree in 1952 from Harvard University and his doctorate in 1959, in physics, from Yale University.

Commencement '97
  • Undergraduate ceremony: 10 a.m. & 3 p.m., Saturday, May 17

  • Graduate ceremony: 3 p.m., Sunday, May 18

  • School of Law: 10 a.m., Sunday, May 18

  • UConn Health Center: 6 p.m., Thursday, May 22

  • ROTC commissioning: 7 p.m., Saturday, May 17

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