University Celebrates Its 202nd Commencement
Release Date: 05-21-2006
Author: Kevin Foley
During a special morning when the soundtrack was brass and bagpipes, the dress code demanded dark robes and academic regalia, and the word "process" was exclusively an intransitive verb, some 2,300 new graduates of the University of Vermont marched behind bright college banners to celebrate their accomplishments and new diplomas at the university's 202nd Commencement on May 21.
After trustees, student leaders and Vermont Gov. James H. Douglas offered their reflections and best wishes to the graduates, UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel's remarks celebrated memorable university and Vermont moments ranging from the day in high school the new graduates first opened their acceptance envelopes to T.J. Sorrentine's game-winning three in the opening round of the 2005 NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Fogel gave special recognition to members of Students Take Action Now Darfur, whose work against the Sudanese genocide included the recently approved divestment of university funds from Sudan; the 14 ROTC graduates accepting commissions in the U.S. Army; and, especially, to retiring Sen. James Jeffords and outgoing UVM Senior Vice President and Provost John Bramley.
Lauding Jeffords' leadership in environmental and conservation issues, as well as his staunch support of the university and overall "conscience and courage" and "true compassionate conservatism," Fogel expressed pleasure that the three-term U.S. senator will embark upon ambassadorial role for the university after he leaves office, contributing to the College of Education and Social Services' National Institute for Leadership, Disability and Students Placed at Risk. Beginning in 2007, Jeffords will also work with students and faculty as a James Marsh Professor-At-Large.
Fogel thanked Bramley, who is returning to the Department of Animal Science faculty, for being a crucial partner over the past four years. He described Bramley as a distinguished scientist and able academic administrator with a ready wit.
Hope, hospitality and honorary degrees
Grassroots intellectual Gustavo Esteva, author of more than 30 books and a personal and intellectual inspiration for UVM's new, successful study abroad program in Oaxaca, Mexico, received an honorary degree and gave the commencement address.
Esteva vigorously critiqued the "bubble" of formal education, discussing the powerful lessons he has learned from his friends and neighbors, the peasants and campesinos of Mexico's poorest state. He celebrated the power of the "small, local, tribal, personal, natural and good" to counter the homogenizing power of the global free market. Esteva urged the new graduates to hope, and to open themselves up to surprise, to improvisation, to people different than themselves not, he said, through tolerance, but rather through hospitality.
"Tolerance stings, it wounds," Esteva said, arguing that the post-Sept. 11 calls to tolerance, while welcome, were limited and flawed. "To tolerate is to insult. Hospitality, in contrast, embraces the radical pluralism of reality, the incommensurable otherness of the other. Hospitality means opening your arms and the doors of your heart to those who are radically different."
In addition to Esteva, Fogel awarded honorary degrees to four other leaders in their fields: Graham Stiles Newell, a teacher of history and Latin in St. Johnsbury, and known as a “walking encyclopedia” of town, state, and world history; Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam, a leader in conservation and youth development, and founder of the Student Conservation Association; Barbara W. Snelling, former Vermont lieutenant governor, and founder and president of the institutional advancement consulting firm, Snelling, Kolb & Kuhnle, Inc.; and Hubert “Hub” W. Vogelmann, professor emeritus of botany, a pioneer of research on acid rain, founder of UVM’s Field Naturalist Program and a principal force behind the creation of Vermont’s Act 250.
Student and faculty awards
Five students were honored with university awards. Natalia Fajardo won the Mary Jean Simpson Award, honoring the senior woman who exhibits the highest qualities of leadership, academic competence and character; Colin Robinson won the F.T. Kidder Medal, honoring the senior man ranking first in character, leadership and scholarship; Sarah Poirier won the Class of 1967 Award, presented to the senior who best exhibits leadership, academic competence and character, and who has earned the respect of faculty and fellow students; David Santucci won the Keith M. Miser Leadership Award, recognizing outstanding service to the university; and Katherine Kasarjian won the Elmer Nicholson Achievement Prize, recognizing the greatness of the student's UVM experience and the expectation that the student will make a major contribution in his or her field of interest.
The UVM Alumni Association honored retiring Classics Professor Z. Philip Ambrose with the George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award, citing nominations from former students that called Ambrose, who taught at UVM for more than 40 years, a "force of nature" in the classroom with "encyclopedic knowledge" of his field.
Fogel and Bramley conferred degrees on an estimated 1,807 undergraduates, 418 graduate students (including 61 doctorates), 96 medical students, and 47 international students. Members of the Class of 2006 came from 40 states and 17 countries, almost 1,000 of them from Vermont. The class included 146 ALANA (Asian American, Latino/a, Asian, African American, and Native American) students.
Commencement, which was scheduled to take place on the historic campus Green, was moved indoors to the Multipurpose Facility at Patrick Gymnasium after an ominous forecast and days of ongoing rain.
Trascripts of Daniel Mark Fogel's remarks, Gustavo Esteva's address and Judith Cohen's closing reflection are available at Commencement 2006