University of Vermont

College of
Agriculture and Life Sciences

Department of Plant and Soil Science

Highest Achievers & Largest Group Defines CALS Class of 2012

Three Out of Four CALS Grads are Women

CALS All Stars: Clockwise from left, Lauren Fowler, Shiren Chan, Jeffrey Eng, Erika Hesterberg, Pamela Rooney, Jennifer Kaulius, Liam Donnelly, Todd Stanley, Julie Williams, Brandon Vanesse and Samantha Case.

Seven hours later, as they queued into UVM Athletic Complex for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' (CALS) diploma ceremony, graduating seniors were still humming the Catamount Version of Vitamin C's "Graduation (Friends Forever)." The song rapped by Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke, voices of SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star, respectively, was the hit tune of University of Vermont Commencement that Sunday morning, May 20, and of nationwide news outlets, websites and social media all week after.

'A great graduation gift for the Class of 2012 from honorary degree recipient Nickelodeon president Cyma Zarghami.

As a result, CALS' Class of 2012, families and friends arrived at 4:30 p.m. upbeat, warmed by the 88-degree temperatures and fueled by food and drink from a reception hosted by the College before the ceremony. College Marshal Jonathan Leonard and Dean Tom Vogelmann led the event. Faculty member Don Stratton read the names of every one of the 337 graduates as they received their diplomas. And three professors transitioned to emeriti status before the audience of about 1200 people.

Commencement speaker, Distinguished University Professor Susan Wallace contrasted her rise from student to scientist in a "man's world," with the sphere of CALS' graduating class, which is 73 percent women. She told graduates that they could be successful at whatever life's work they choose if they "love doing it and (are) willing to work hard at it." Here's the full story.

View the slide show of highlights and more than 40 photos of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences graduates who earned the top awards of the College and UVM. Among them:

  • Shiren Chan earned the Keith M. Miser Leadership Award.
  • Jeffrey Eng received the Elmer Nicholson Achievement Prize.
  • Samantha Case and Julie L. Williams are UVM McNair Scholars.
  • Rebecca Calder was chosen as College of Agriculture and Life Sciences banner bearer in UVM commencement.
  • Liam Donnelly, Erika Hesterberg, Pamela Rooney and Brandon Vanasse received University of Vermont Mortar Board Awards.
  • Summa cum laude graduates are: Dylan Badger, Lauren Fowler, Jennifer Kaulius, Pamela Rooney and Todd Stanley.
  • Magna cum laude graduates are: Marie Burneko, Rebecca Calder, Erika Hall, Erika Hesterberg, Samantha Ogilvie, Clara Pedley, Kyriel Pineault, Morgan Powers and Jarrod Szydlowski.
  • Cum laude graduates are: Jesse Ackemann, Page Atcheson, Meagan DiVito, Liam Donnelly, Jean Drolet, Christina Economou, Hannah Facey, Kelsey Haist, Hannah Hinsley, Samuel Hoadley, Katherine Ida, Hannah Kammerer, Julianna Kattermann, Allison Keller, Michele Langone, Laurie Lesage, Sarah McMahon, Sarah Moylan, Jillian Nyman, Kelsey Preston, Rachel Shapiro, Megan Taylor and Sara Ziegler.

Vogelmann noted that this class, the largest in CALS history and among the highest achieving – 18 hail from UVM's Honors College and eight earned University-wide accolades – "made excellent use of the rich resources and opportunities that our great College has to offer." 

Three UVM Extension leaders ceremoniously retired from service as Extension Dean and Director Douglas Lantagne read proclamations highlighting their years of service.

  • Richard LeVitre's UVM Extension career spans more than 30 years. As associate dean, LeVitre increased his faculty and staff's grant funding from $1M to $7M. As Farm Viability Program leader LeVitre helped hundreds of Vermont farms stay in business. He especially loved his years hosting a call-in radio show. (And he was a "ringer" during any milking contest, leading his team to victory.)
  • Chester Parsons, renowned sheep expert, retired from UVM Extension after more than 26 years. He often said, “Strive for the most advanced information that education has to offer, but to question all of it.”  But he was better known for his Willie Nelson impersonations, guitar playing, songs and laughter.
  • Karen Schneider is well known in Extension circles for big-picture thinking, organization, early adoption of technologies and bringing her colleagues on board with enthusiasm, cajoling and humor. "Performing with ease, the classroom is your stage," said Extension Dean Doug Lantagne. She served UVM Extension for 26 years.

In sending off the newly minted group of alumni of UVM's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Dean Tom Vogelmann said, "we feel lucky to have known you and lucky that your families allowed us to be your mentors.”