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  June 12, 2000

Dodd at Commencement Calls for More Education Funding

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), speaking at the University's 117th commencement ceremonies, called for increased federal, state and local support for public education from kindergarten to college.

About 2,800 students were awarded undergraduate degrees during the ceremonies, held May 20 at Gampel Pavilion.

For more Commencement news, click here.

Dodd, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree, implored the graduates to support public education in any way they can and suggested they "tutor, mentor, coach, teach, join the PTA - do something, anything, to support our children."

And, he said, government must step up and provide more support for public education.

He urged Connecticut to become the first state in the 21st century that "provides to each and every child an equal opportunity to achieve a world-class public education - from kindergarten to the University of Connecticut - our flagship public university."

The senator is recommending the enactment of a new Morrill Act for the 21st century. The original legislation, adopted about 150 years ago, funded land-grant institutions around the country, including UConn. The new legislation would, in his words, "harvest the financial abundance from the sale or lease of public airwaves to underwrite the educational demands of this new century."

Connecticut's senior senator, speaking on the floor normally used by UConn's championship basketball teams, shared one of his dreams - scoring the winning point in a UConn game against Duke University.

Although that's not likely to happen, he said, "it's still a privilege to share this day of reflection and celebration with you."

Daring to dream, he said, is one of the keys to achieving success in life.

"It is not simply what you do," he said, "but how you do it, that will determine whether or not you succeed."

Graduate Degrees
National Science Foundation Director Rita R. Colwell made it plain for those who received advanced degrees from the University May 21: the future rests in their hands.

"You are the next generation of leaders, although it may not feel that way today," said Colwell during her address. "You have the new knowledge and the new skills.

"An advanced degree is more than just education," she said. "It is a decision to choose a determined path; it is a career direction, a driving interest, and in some cases an absolute passion."

Quoting sources as disparate as Dr. Seuss and the Dalai Lama, Colwell urged the degree recipients to have "confidence in the path ahead even though it has few road markers, and fewer guarantees."

Colwell, who received an honorary doctor of science degree from the University, in 1998 became the first woman to head the NSF, the federal agency that funds most non-medical basic research in the United States.

At the ceremony, the University awarded 752 master's degrees, 118 doctorates and 17 sixth-year diplomas in education. An honorary doctor of laws was given to Jules B. LaPidus, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, for his "outstanding contribution to excellence in American graduate education."

Also honored was Nina R. Heller, an associate professor of social work, who has been named University Teaching Fellow for 2000-01.

This year's graduate degree ceremonies were webcast live over the Internet for the first time.

Law School
As a graduate of Harvard University and Oxford University, Harold Hongju Koh knows that education is crucial. But as the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Koh also knows that what one does with that education is just as important.

May 21, Koh encouraged the more than 200 members of the University of Connecticut School of Law Class of 2000 to use their degrees to make a difference.

"Lawyers do matter. Good lawyers matter more," said Koh, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree. "To make that difference, you need ideas and energy."

Recalling the tough choices that took him from Harvard Law School to his current position, in which he advises Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on U.S. policy on democracy, human rights, labor, the rule of law and religious freedom, Koh urged the graduates to follow their own callings.

"Please stand for something," he said. "If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything."

Quoting an old Korean saying, Koh also told the graduates "never let your skill exceed your virtue."

Each of the skills the students learned has a proper time and place, he said, urging them, for example, to use their cross-examinatio n skills to break down a hostile witness, not to terrorize their children.

"May the force be with you, yes, but don't let it take you to the dark side," he added.

Health Center
The ranks of UConn-educated physicians and dentists swelled May 25 when 127 were handed their doctor of medicine or doctor of medical dentistry degrees. Deans Deckers and Robinson handed out the degrees to the 83 new physicians and 44 new dentists. Forty-three graduates from the master's in public health program also received their degrees.

Patch Adams, a pediatrician from West Virginia, was the commencement speaker. Adams became widely known to the public as a result of the movie Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.

The theme of Adams' commencement talk was "caring," not just in the sense of delivering medical care, but providing patients - and indeed everyone - with something more.

"Pour out that sweet human love into each and every human you meet," he said. "Your M.D. and D.M.D. degree is the ticket to hold the hand of the person next to you."

Adams, a non-traditional physician, founded a free medical clinic in West Virginia that, over the years, has evolved into a community of like-minded thinkers.

In addition to doctoring, Adams is a clown, in the belief that laughter and good cheer promote good health. Although most people don't associate medical or dental practitioners with clowns, Adams asserts there are similarities: "The jobs are the same," he said, "to give a vision of what caring could be."

Gary Frank
Janice Palmer
Allison Thompson