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Mamet and Fogel to Keynote 200th Commencement

By Lynda Majarian Article published March 3, 2004

commencement '03
The university’s 200th Commencement will be held on Sunday, May 23 on the University Green, the site of numerous graduation ceremonies up until 1962. (File photo: University Photography)

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet and President Daniel Mark Fogel will be keynote speakers at the university’s 200th Commencement Sunday, May 23. The milestone event will revive an old tradition with technological changes that will raise the bar for future graduation ceremonies.

Commencement will be held on the University Green, the site of numerous graduation ceremonies until the mid -1950s. Overlooked by UVM’s oldest and most historic buildings, the Green is also where the university’s first president, Daniel Clarke Sanders, cleared trees with his own hands to build his home.

A stage will be constructed at the main entrance to the Waterman building, facing the Green. Two large screens will provide visibility to the audience and enhance the speakers’ remarks with historic and contemporary photographs and illustrations of the university and its students. Four camera crews will supply the screens with images of speakers, students and some of the nearly 10,000 expected attendees.

“Few universities are able to commemorate a 200th graduation,” Fogel says. “This occasion warrants a true celebration of UVM's long and distinguished history. Commencement also gives us an opportunity to reflect with pride on the great public university we are now, and to look forward with anticipation to the future we have planned."

Fogel’s speech will celebrate the Class of 2004 and provide a historical overview of the university’s two centuries of educational leadership.

Also addressing the graduates and guests will be David Mamet, who will receive an honorary degree. Mamet won the Pulitzer Prize for his play, Glengarry Glen Ross, and has earned acclaim for his other plays and screenplays, including Sexual Perversity in Chicago, The Verdict, The Untouchables and Wag the Dog, which earned both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for best screenplay. His latest film, a political thriller titled Spartan, will be released later this month.

Mamet has lived in Vermont part-time for nearly 40 years. He studied and has taught at Goddard College.

Also receiving honorary degrees will be Florence Knoll Bassett, a pioneer of 20th century modern design; Edwin Colodny, former UVM interim president and former CEO of U.S. Airways; Charles Johnson, former Vermont state naturalist; Grace Paley, renowned author, activist and Vermont state poet; alumnus Stephen Rubenstein, who recently bestowed the largest gift in the university’s history to promote study of the environment; and Michael Lomax, Dillard University president and CEO elect of the United Negro College Fund.

Bassett, of Coconut Grove, Fla., last year received the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and art patrons. An advocate for farmland conservation, she sold the development rights to her Vermont farm to the American Farmland Trust.

During his 13-month tenure as UVM’s interim president, Colodny, of Burlington, launched a capital campaign and reorganized the academic structure, among other endeavors.

Johnson, of East Montpelier, is the author of In Season: A Natural History of the New England Year and Bogs of the Northeast and has been honored by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Under the student-focused leadership of Lomax, of New Orleans, Dillard University has become one of the premier undergraduate institutions in the South. He will soon take over the United Negro College Fund, the nation’s oldest and most successful minority higher education assistance organization.

Paley, of Thetford, is equally famous for her acclaimed works of short fiction and poetry and her involvement in the anti-war, feminist and anti-nuclear movements since 1961. She regards herself as a “somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist.”

Rubenstein, UVM ’61, of Little Falls, N.J., grew Rubenstein Properties from a small family business to a conglomerate of industrial, real estate and defense contracting companies that use environmentally sensitive design. The School of Natural Resources has been renamed for him in recognition of his financial support and longtime advocacy as an advisor.

For a full schedule of Commencement activities, including ceremonies to be held by individual colleges and schools, see Commencement or call 656-2005.