Author Julia Alvarez to Speak at 2008 Commencement
Release Date: 01-15-2008
Contact: University Communications Staff
Phone: (802) 656-2005 FAX: (802) 656-3203
Author and teacher Julia Alvarez, whose novels, poetry and non-fiction have garnered critical praise and prestigious awards, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree from the university next spring. Graduates will gather on the University Green on Sunday, May 18, for UVM’s 204th commencement ceremony.
Though she was born in New York, Julia Alvarez 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.
The university will present honorary degrees to six other individuals, listed below, in recognition of their achievement and service to the nation, state or university.
Carole 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 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 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 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 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, she and the Vermonter, Malcolm Severance, married and eventually returned, spending their first six years in Converse Hall dormitory, where Gladys was head resident and their three children had adoring babysitters. Later, Gladys became Colchester’s delinquent tax collector, a role she approached as a counselor rather than enforcer. She and Malcolm have partnered for many years in planning an ambitious development on former family land, Severance Corners. An active volunteer for many causes, Gladys Severance co-founded Burlington’s Meals-on-Wheels program in 1972 and initiated Colchester’s first Girl Scouts program in the 1960s.
Malcolm Severance, UVM Class of 1949, likely holds the record for UVM titles: student, alumnus, faculty member, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, creator of the business school, first chair and first dean of business, parent of two alumni, trustee, reunion chair and member of innumerable committees. He was one of the founders of the Freshman Summer Orientation program, and he established the Office of Institutional Research and was its first director. He also has been a state legislator and director of the Northern New England School of Banking. In addition to his work with his wife, Gladys, on the Severance Corners project, he and Dean Rocki-Lee DeWitt are writing a history of the UVM School of Business Administration.
Information: UVM Commencement or Leslie Logan, 656-1266.