University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - Commencement

Honorary Degree Recipients

Commencement 2008 Speaker
and Honorary Degree Recipients

Seven outstanding individuals will receive honorary degrees at the University of Vermont’s 204th commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 18. Recognized for their achievement and service to the nation, the State of Vermont, or the university are commencement speaker Julia Alvarez, Carole Burack, Daniel A. Burack, Eric Lipton, Sister Janice Ryan, Gladys Severence, and Malcolm Severence.

Julia AlvarezCommencement Speaker: Julia A. Alvarez is an author and teacher whose novels, poetry and non-fiction have garnered critical praise and prestigious awards. Though she was born in New York, she spent her early years in her parents’ home country, the Dominican Republic, where she became immersed in their homeland’s oral tradition. She returned to New York at age 10, where her struggles with English constituted “a watershed experience,” she says. “I had to pay close attention to each word — great training for a writer.” Alvarez coupled a long career in teaching with a prolific literary output, including How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of the Butterflies, Before We Were Free, The Woman I Kept To Myself, Saving the World, and A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia. She is writer-in-residence at Middlebury College.

Carole BurackCarole Burack has devoted innumerable hours of volunteer service in support of the arts and education. She has been on the board of the Harrison, N.Y., library for 25 years, and the board of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival for 15 years. She worked many years at the Metropolitan Opera House, overseeing 400 volunteers, and currently serves on the board of the Fleming Museum. At UVM, she and her husband, Dan Burack, established the Dan and Carole Burack President’s Distinguished Lecture Series, as well as a scholarship fund for students in teacher education.

Daniel BurackDaniel A. Burack, UVM Class of 1955, has combined successful business savvy with an extraordinary volunteer and philanthropic spirit. A commercial real estate management specialist, he is chairman of Burack Investments, partner in Altman/Burack Partners, and part owner of Cranwell Resort Spa and Golf Club in Lenox, Mass. A loyal alumnus and fan of UVM, he has served in numerous volunteer roles, including fundraiser for Reunion 2005 — his 50th reunion — and member, along with his wife, Carole, of the National Campaign Steering Committee. He remains active with his fraternity, Phi Sigma Delta, and has worked in their fundraising efforts as well.

Eric LiptonEric S. Lipton, UVM Class of 1987, published his first news story in the Vermont Cynic in 1984 and has been in print ever since. The New York Times Washington Bureau reporter stepped lively into a profession he calls “a rare privilege” and credits his Cynic experience and training in analytical thinking as a philosophy and history major for that grace. His Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1992 (at the Hartford Courant) for stories co-written about the flaw in the Hubble telescope opened journalistic doors. He has written for the Times and, previously, the Washington Post on issues ranging from life after Katrina to the World Trade Center attacks. He and colleague James Glanz wrote the highly praised book, City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center.

Sister Janice RyanSister Janice E. Ryan entered the Sisters of Mercy religious order in 1954, drawn by its focus on education. It was an auspicious partnership, in which the young farm girl from Fairfield, Vt., absorbed the scholarship and the mission and melded it with a drive and intellect that made people in all areas of life heed her opinions and follow her lead. In addition to teaching and leading Trinity College as president for 17 years, she has worked on projects to ban land mines and eliminate the death penalty, lobbied for mainstreaming special needs children, and served as Vermont’s deputy commissioner of corrections. Not ready to retire, she says her next contribution “will be wherever the spirit leads me.”

Gladys SeveranceGladys Clark Severance, UVM Class of 1949, left the university with a degree in chemistry and mathematics and a love for Vermont (and a Vermonter) that would keep her tethered to the state for life. Following graduate work at Cornell University, she and Malcolm Severance married, eventually returning to Vermont where Malcolm became a member of the UVM faculty. They spent their first six years in Converse Hall dormitory, where Gladys was head resident and their three children enjoyed adoring babysitters. She taught junior high and high school math and then served 13 years as the elected tax collector in Colchester, a role she approached as much as counselor as enforcer. An active volunteer for many causes, Gladys initiated Colchester’s Girl Scout program, co-founded Burlington’s Meals-on-Wheels, and was instrumental in keeping the National Museum of the Morgan Horse in Vermont. She also managed Malcolm’s four successful campaigns for the Vermont legislature. Together they have worked for many years in planning an ambitious development on family land at Severance Corners in Colchester.

Malcolm SeveranceMalcolm F. Severance, UVM Class of 1949, likely holds the record for UVM titles: student, alumnus, professor, department chair, emeritus professor, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, a two-term trustee once as a member of the self perpetuating board and once as a legislative board member, parent of two alumni, and class reunion chairman. He has been credited with creating the School of Business and was its first chair, he co-founded the Freshman Summer Orientation program, and he established the Office of Institutional Research and was its first director. In recognition of his service to the university, he received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 1994 and the School of Business conference room was named for him. He has been a state legislator and director of the Northern New England School of Banking and Williams Banking School. In addition to his work with his wife, Gladys, on the Severance Corners New England Village project, he is writing a history of the UVM School of Business Administration.

Last modified March 01 2009 10:43 AM

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