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  June 11, 2001

Commencement 2001 Combines
Ceremony, Celebration, Food for Thought

Thousands of students and their families celebrated the successful conclusion of their UConn careers during Commencement ceremonies last month, as undergraduates and graduates in the Class of 2001 received their degrees and embarked on the next stage of their lives.

Amid the smiles and the ceremonial, Commencement speakers urged the graduating students to reflect on a variety of themes. Some of the graduates were exhorted to reflect on broad national and international issues, others were encouraged to take a more personal look at their interests and goals and to consider how they can be of service to others.

Emphasis on Education
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige urged members of the Classs of 2001 and their guests to support President George W. Bush's proposed educational reforms during his address at the University's 118th undergraduate Commencement ceremonies May 19.

More than 3,200 students were awarded undergraduate degrees during twin ceremonies held morning and afternoon at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.

Paige said Bush has made education the priority for his administration. "The president's plan to reform education in America was the first proposal put before the Congress. The president is deadly serious about this goal and he solicits your cooperation and all Americans' cooperation, because this is indeed a goal that has impact for all of us."

He compared Bush's education plan to President Kennedy's goal, announced 40 years ago, of sending humans to the moon by the end of the 1960s. "President Kennedy adopted the goal of putting a person on the moon and returning him safely," he said. "When we put this president's goal - no child left behind - (beside that goal), putting a person on the moon and returning him safely may be a piece of cake."

In other remarks, Paige described the university faculty as heroes. He said his teachers and professors and coaches provided him with the inspiration he now has and will always be heroes for him. UConn faculty, he said, will be heroes "for the graduates today."

Paige was superintendent of schools in Houston, Texas from 1994 until assuming the highest education post in the nation in January. He also served for a decade as dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University.

A day earlier, fourteen UConn students were among the Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets commissioned as lieutenants during a ceremony in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. They were addressed by Brig. Gen. Ireneusz J. Zembrzuski, assistant Adjutant General for the Army National Guard for Connecticut, a UConn alumnus.

Global Issues
Speaking during the University's graduate school ceremonies at Storrs on May 20, Lester R. Brown, an internationally renowned environmentalist, urged about 1,200 master's and doctoral degree candidates "to work together to build a new economy."

He said the global economy must be restructured, if economic progress is to continue.

Brown, founder and chair of the board of the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based non-profit research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental issues, said the world is today in need of a shift in world view as radical as that of the 16th-century scholar, Copernicus, who proposed that the earth revolves around the sun.

"Most of us," he told the graduates and their families, "think the environment is part of the economy. In reality, the economy is part of the environment."

Brown said deforestation, expanding deserts, soil erosion, disappearing species and increased pollution are all "symptoms of growing stress between the economy and the ecosystem of which it is a part." The problems, he added, are having a global effect that is unprecedented in world history.

Brown advocated a new approach that would allow economic progress to continue without destroying environmental support systems. This "eco-economy" would, for example, tap into wind power to generate electricity, and enable society to make "the transition from the fossil fuel age to the age of renewable energy," he said.

During the ceremony, Brown received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Among those receiving graduate degrees this year was a cohort of 54 Pharm.D. students, the first class to graduate from UConn's new, six-year professional degree program in pharmacy.

The graduate ceremony was presented on the Web in streaming video, offering graduates' family and friends around the world an opportunity to view the event.

A number of the graduating students, as well as some of the attending faculty who earned their doctorates from UConn, were sporting new graduate gowns for the first time. The navy blue gowns have an oak-leaf symbol embroidered in gold on each front panel, matching caps, and hoods specific to each school or college.

Also during the ceremony, four faculty were honored for their research: Robin Cote, an assistant professor of physics; Margaret Gilbert, a professor of philosophy; Steven Suib, a professor of chemistry; and Peter Turchin, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Finding a Passion
During a ceremony Sunday at the School of Law, Clare Dalton, a leading feminist legal scholar and a pioneer in the development of legal education focusing on domestic violence, encouraged the nearly 200 law graduates to take time during their professional journey to find their passion.

"My first exhortation to you is to learn, if you do not know it already, what moves you," she said. "There needs to be time for each of you to ask, now that so few barriers remain between you and your life as a lawyer, 'Now that I have arrived, where exactly am I, and is it where I want to be? If not, how can I turn this arrival into a departure?'"

Dalton originally intended to become an English professor, but at her father's behest, she became a lawyer. Throughout her academic career, Dalton has incorporated other interests into her chosen field of study.

"Whenever I have asked myself why I have been drawn to a particular professional role or opportunity or challenge, I have been able to find an answer lodged in my personal history and early passions," she said. "Whenever, on the other hand, I have found myself drained rather than nurtured by my professional commitments, it has turned out to be because I was chasing someone else's idea of a successful or satisfying life and not my own, even if I had persuaded myself otherwise."

Dalton is a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.

Threshold of Dreams
Gov. John G. Rowland addressed UConn School of Dental Medicine and UConn School of Medicine graduates at the 30th Commencement exercises held at the Health Center May 24.

"Class of 2001, this is your century," he said. "This Commencement is about standing on the threshold of your dreams, and it's about already achieving some of them.

"Give something back to lift someone to the opportunity you have today," Rowland added. "By being involved, we help people get the breaks they need and allow them to be at the right place at the right time."

He said the graduates will touch "thousands of lives" during their careers.

Medical school graduate Gabriela Brzankalski began the ceremonies by singing the Star Spangled Banner. She returned to the podium to lead the audience in singing Happy Birthday to the governor, who was celebrating his 44th birthday.

Representing the dental school as class speaker was Gerald Yang. He mentioned all his fellow dental students by name and said each one contributed something special to the overall success of his graduating class. The graduating dental class was ranked first in the country this year on the national boards, placing the class, and the UConn dental school, as number one in the country.

"Never been a better time than right now to become a doctor," was the refrain of medical student speaker Jason Ryan. Although some physicians complain about the encroachment of managed care, he said he is excited about the advances in medical science and better patient care.

Thirty-eight students received dental degrees and 78 received medical degrees.

Despite the rain drumming on the tent top, spirits were high. After the Hippocratic Oath was administered, there were cheers, whistles, hugs and kisses, and congratulations all around.

Sherry Fisher
Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu
Allison Thompson

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