University of Vermont

214th Commencement Ceremonies - May 16 and 17, 2015

Alumni Greetings and Presentation of the George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award
Kristina M. Pisanelli, Class of 1997, President of the University of Vermont Alumni Association

Kristina PisanelliGood morning.

My name is Kristina Pisanelli, UVM Class of 1997, and I have the privilege of serving as President of the UVM Alumni Association. It is such a pleasure to be here today, as we gather to celebrate with you, the Class of 2014.

This morning’s activities opened with the University Marshal carrying the Ceremonial Mace into the commencement theater. The mace has four images on it that symbolize the University. I would like to take a few minutes to focus on one of these symbols…that of friendship.

It seems entirely fitting that friendship be symbolic of this university and that we focus on friendship today, as I imagine it is a central part of your graduation experience…celebrating your years at UVM surrounded by your roommates, your classmates, your teammates . . . friends who have enriched your lives and helped you to grow in so many ways. Many of them will remain a part of your life for years to come, keeping in close touch throughout the journeys ahead, until you find yourselves looking back one day and wondering where all that time could have possibly gone.

Just as important as the friendships you’ve made with people at UVM, is the friendship each of you has made with this University. You have developed your own personal relationship with UVM, shaped over time through your individual experiences. Like any close friendship, it has brought you happiness, enriched your life and left a lasting imprint that you will always carry with you.

And like the other close friendships you have formed, this is a reciprocal relationship. UVM has changed and shaped you. You, in turn, have left your mark on this community and will continue to influence it as you engage with UVM as an alum.

I suggest that you pause for a moment. Take stock of your feelings this past week and today — a mix of pride, nostalgia, happiness, fulfillment and affection for this place and this moment in your lives. I hope that you will hold these sentiments close to you, and recognize that these feelings of friendship with UVM need never go away.

Time, change and distance are the challenges to any friendship —graduate school, your career, and perhaps spouses and children will fill your life in new and exciting ways. You will likely find it harder to make time for your friendships, including the one you value with UVM. Maintaining that ongoing relationship will require some investment of time and effort on your part. But I can tell you from personal experience that when you return to this campus, and when you engage with the broader UVM community wherever you are, so many of your feelings from this week will come flooding back and enrich your lives once more. It never fails.

It is my real pleasure to welcome you to the ranks of the UVM Alumni Association, a network of more than 105,000 people who share the common bond of a UVM experience. Collectively, as alumni, we have the ability to make our University even stronger than it already is, and I encourage each of you to join me in making that happen. May the special feelings of affection and friendship that you feel for UVM today stay with you for the rest of your lives — they are wonderful gifts.

So please — stay in touch! Connect with UVM and your fellow alums early and often. Keep up with UVM and with one another over social media and at alumni events. And come back this October for your "zero" year reunion at Reunion and Homecoming Weekend.

Congratulations once more to the Class of 2014 on your outstanding accomplishments. On behalf of the UVM Alumni Association, please take with you our sincere wishes for success in all of your upcoming endeavors.

And now, it is my pleasure to recognize the recipient of the George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award.


The University of Vermont Alumni Association is proud to honor Professor Donna Rizzo, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the School of Engineering and the Dorothean Chair in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, as the recipient of the 2014 George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award.

This award was named for Dr. George V. Kidder, UVM class of 1922 and former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to recognize excellence in teaching and extraordinary contributions to the enrichment of campus life.

Professor Rizzo now joins the select group of UVM faculty recognized over the years for bringing these qualities and abilities to bear, first and foremost in the classroom, where she has ignited the passion for learning and discovery in so many of our students.

Professor Rizzo received her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Connecticut, her Master’s degree from the University of California, Irvine, and was the first graduate of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. program at UVM in 1994. She has received more than $8 million in research funding and was recently named to the Dorothean Chair in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, which honors faculty whose work promises to advance the field, who are doing major scholarly work with graduate students, and who teach basic engineering to undergraduates.

Professor Rizzo’s research focus is on the development of new computational tools to improve the understanding of human-induced changes on natural systems, particularly groundwater, and the way decisions are made about natural resources. The recipient of numerous grants, including a prestigious National Science Foundation award, Dr. Rizzo has been a tireless steward of the highly successful Barrett Undergraduate Research Program, which has provided undergraduate students in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences with the opportunity to do research prior to entering a graduate program.

Professor Rizzo’s strength as a researcher and her engaging manner in the classroom have inspired some 80 undergraduates to assist her in her research.

Above all, it is her gift for teaching that inspires and motivates her students and brings us to bestow this honor upon Professor Rizzo today.

For all she has contributed to the lives of her students and to the University of Vermont, on behalf of the Alumni Association, I invite you to join me in recognizing Professor Donna Rizzo as the recipient of the George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award for 2014.

Last modified May 22 2014 02:21 PM