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June 14, 2005

Immigration Official Tells Graduates
To Be Compassionate

Sarah Breckenridge
View the Commencement 2005 Slideshow

A Cuban immigrant who twice was placed on academic probation in college before going on to a career that has included two Presidential appointments advised the Class of 2005 to remember those who have helped them and to give back to the community.

“When you are in a position to make a decision affecting someone’s life or career, try to be compassionate because your actions may impact the life of others,” Eduardo Aguirre, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the nearly 2,750 graduating students during undergraduate commencement exercises on Mother’s Day.

“Always remember those who opened the gate for you, those who made a difference in your life, and those who really cared about you.”

Aguirre, who has been nominated to become the next U.S. ambassador to Spain and Andorra, received an honorary degree along with Tim Page, son of former UConn professor Ellis Page, who won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism writing for The Washington Post.

Jonathan Fanton, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations, urged about 1,800 master’s and doctoral degree candidates to become involved in protecting human rights.

“Fired by the honorable tradition of this state and the inspiration of this University, we must join together to fulfill our obligation for leadership in protecting human security, individual dignity, and opportunity for all,” he said.

Fanton, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the May 7 ceremony, was chair of Human Rights Watch from 1998 to 2003.

Roger Newton ’74, senior vice president and director of Espirion Therapeutics, also received an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Newton co-discovered the cholesterol-reducing drug Lipitor.

During the undergraduate ceremony, Provost Peter J. Nicholls presented this year’s University Teaching Fellows: David Moss, associate professor of curriculum and instruction; Nancy Rodriguez, associate professor of nutritional sciences; Gregory Colon Semenza, assistant professor of English; and Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh, professor of political science; and Research Fellow Michael Neumann, professor of mathematics. During the graduate ceremony, the Provost presented Robin Chazdon, professor ecology and evolutionary biology, and Clinton Sanders, professor of sociology, as Research Fellows.

More than 240 Juris Doctor and Master of Laws degrees were awarded by the School of Law on May 22.

Morris Sheppard Arnold, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, told law graduates that the rights of citizens are under increasing pressure, and that a compliant judiciary presents a danger to liberty in the nation.

“As matters now stand, the criminal system has been given over to the administrative, managerial state, and it has become so prolix and technical that ordinary citizens can’t understand it and don’t participate in it,” said Arnold. “This kind of estrangement can be dangerous to a free society. It’s time to let a little air in.”

The School of Medicine awarded 73 degrees in medicine and 36 degrees in dental medicine, along with master’s degrees in biomedical science and public health and 25 doctorates in biomedical science on May 15.

Antonia Novello, New York State Health Commissioner and the first woman to serve as Surgeon General of the United States, advised graduates to remain level-headed in spite of the status of their professions, and to apply themselves conscientiously.

“The world owes you nothing,” she said. “Do not think that by being a graduate of the school of medicine or dental medicine, a raging bull will not hit you because he’s a vegetarian ... Never lose sight of who you are or where you came from.”