NEWEST GRADS: WINTER COMMENCEMENT

by Beth Thomas

Photo by Kathy Flickinger

The last members of UD's Class of 2001, those who completed degree requirements in August and December, received their degrees Jan. 5 at the Bob Carpenter Sports/Convocation Center during Winter Commencement ceremonies.  

University President David P. Roselle welcomed approximately 500 degree recipients attending from the 1,467-member class, as families and friends filled the Carpenter Center to near capacity. For the first time, interested persons also were able to watch the ceremony as it happened via a World Wide Web cast that made the ceremony accessible around the world. To watch the ceremony, visit [www.udel.edu/PR/2002/commencement.html].

In keeping with tradition, a distinguished alumnus was invited back to speak at Winter Commencement, and this year's speaker was Jacqueline Jones, who graduated from UD in 1970 and is the Truman Professor of American Civilization and chairperson of the department of history at Brandeis University. Jones is a nationally esteemed historian, a winner of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation award (the so-called "Genius Award") and a prize-winning author.

A Delaware native, she is the author of the book, Creek Walking: Growing Up in Delaware in the 1950s, recently published by the University of Delaware Press.

Jones called the opportunity to speak "a great honor, as well as an exercise in humility.

Jacqueline Jones Photo by Duane Perry
"I feel honored because the University of Delaware is alma mater for me and several members of my immediate and extended family–beginning with my mother's sisters, the oldest who graduated in 1927, and my mother, the youngest of the family who graduated in 1940 and returned to earn a master's degree in 1979. I graduated in 1970, my brother and sister-in-law in 1979, and assorted cousins and the children of cousins in recent years. My father served as an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees when he was president of the Delaware state school board from 1974-1986. So, I come from a University of Delaware family, and it's great to be back."

Jones said she felt humbled because a "commencement speech, as a rhetorical form, is an odd duck. A survey among members of my immediate family yielded the following data: My mother could not remember who addressed her graduation ceremony, although she did recall that the topic of the day was the emerging war in Europe. My brother could not remember who delivered the address at his commencement. His wife and fellow alum reminded him that the speaker was Bella Abzug, congresswoman from New York, though neither can recall what she said. In my case, I well remember my own graduation–sitting on the football field in early June of 1970, laughing and talking with my friends during the ceremony. A few weeks ago, I had to inquire at the Office of the President to find out who spoke...."

"Commencement address tradition dictates that I am to congratulate you for your achievements...remind you that we live in a rapidly changing world (as if you needed reminding) and... exhort you to go out and make a difference (whatever that means). And, whatever I say, I should say it all in 10-12 minutes," Jones said.

"In fact, the formal ceremony this morning is only a way station in a day of celebration, a prelude to the parties and family gatherings that will no doubt mark this weekend. We are reminded that, although the University offers a formal structure–in this case, this morning's ritual–in fact, students have meaningful life and learning experiences outside that formal structure. We might call this a sort of parallel education, with the dorms and community and family life and the world as your classroom...too often, I fail to recognize that much of college transpires outside the classroom, and that personal relationships and current events rival lectures and discussions as learning experiences."

Jones spoke of a seminar she teaches at 9 a.m., on Tuesdays and Fridays, and of how much easier it is for students to sign up for such a class than to actually attend.

"A few weeks into the semester, I noticed one of my students dozing off, this in a class of 10 students. I was mildly irritated that he had apparently succumbed to the practice of late-night partying. After class, I met with him in my office so we could talk about a paper he was working on. He was clearly exhausted. As he prepared to leave, he apologized for his nonperformance in class. He said that he had been going back and forth between home and school for the last couple of weeks and that he was very tired. I asked him if everything was OK and he said, 'Well, no,' and then he explained that his uncle had been on one of the Boston flights that had crashed into the World Trade Center and that he had been spending time with his family. His suffering reminded me of my many other students who undergo life-altering experiences while I remain blissfully unaware of their personal struggles in the course of any given semester."

Jones said when she came to UD, "I was young and so were the Beatles. The year I arrived marked the founding of both the National Organization for Women and the Black Panther Party."

Jones said she grew up in Christiana, Del, P.M. (Pre-Mall). "The only religious diversity there amounted to the subdued rivalry between the Presbyterians and Methodists," she said. "The University opened up a whole new world for me.

"Today is a good day to reflect on what you have learned not only in the classroom, but outside the classroom as well. Over the last few years, you have learned from your own friends and classmates–and from the wider University community–about the impeachment and acquittal of a president, the Columbine massacre, the contested election of 2000 and the horrific events of Sept. 11. I hope in your years here that you, too, have encountered a wider world than the neighborhood you came from and that you have at least questioned some of your own assumptions and pre-judgments.

"On behalf of professors everywhere, I acknowledge the strength and power of your parallel education, the one you made for yourself outside the classroom. In return, I ask that you contemplate all the discussions you engaged in, the movies you saw and the people you got to know that, when taken together, mean as much to you as any paper you wrote or lecture you heard."

Jones concluded her talk by paying tribute to the class of 2001 and also to her mother's class of 1940. A group of women from that class have remained friends and continue to meet monthly, Jones said.

Also during the ceremony, Howard E. Cosgrove, chairman of the University's Board of Trustees, presented Medals of Distinction to Foster and Lynn Friess of Chadds Ford, Pa.

The University's highest award, the Medal of Distinction is presented to citizens of the state and region who have made humanitarian, cultural, intellectual or scientific contributions to society, have achieved noteworthy success in their profession or have given significant service to the University, state or region.

The Friesses were honored for their establishment of the Life Enrichment Foundation, which channels their charitable giving, focusing on one-to-one mentoring, discipleship and other personal ministries, especially in Wilmington, Chester, Pa., and Phoenix, Ariz. These ministries offer spiritual encouragement as well as training, education and health care.

Medal recipients: Foster and Lynn Friess during Winter Commencement Photo by Kathy Flickinger
The Friesses have participated in programs affiliated with a number of different Christian denominations and are supportive of many church-oriented philanthropic organizations, including the Ministry of Caring run by the Catholic Charities of Wilmington. In addition, their charitable contributions support mentors for at-risk children, mobile medical vans to meet the health needs of the uninsured in inner cities and hiring the homeless in temporary positions as a stepping stone to permanent employment.

In presenting the awards, Cosgrove said, "It has been said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Charity, whose meaning is derived from the Latin word 'caritas,' meaning Christian love, is the hallmark of your lives. For your many contributions to the quality of life for countless disenfranchised individuals touched by your generous spirit, we salute you."

In his remarks, President Roselle told the graduates that the Friesses seemed to have had an early drive to listen to their hearts in pursuit of their careers and wished that same understanding for those gathered.

"I hope in your life's journey, you, too, will support others–both known and unknown to you. Don't do as the bumper sticker tells you–practice random acts of kindness. Practice thoughtful and regular acts of kindness. Make it your life's work to do so."

The president also recognized Sara Cannon of Smyrna, who at 20 was the youngest member of the graduating class, and Patricia Kennedy of Williamstown, N.J., the oldest graduate, who received her bachelor's degree in nursing at the age of 56. He also paid tribute to Amy Stuller of Hockessin who received her bachelor of arts degree in psychology, and her father Ken, who received a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies.

Acting Provost Dan Rich presented the approximately 38 candidates for doctoral degrees, which were conferred by Cosgrove.

Candidates for master's and bachelor's degrees also were presented by the acting provost, and those degrees were conferred by President Roselle. Representing each college to present the degrees were Robin Morgan, acting dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Mark Huddleston, acting dean of the College of Arts and Science; Scott Jones, associate dean of the College of Business and Economics; Eric Kaler, dean of the College of Engineering; Betty Paulanka, dean of the College of Health and Nursing Sciences; Timothy Barnekov, acting dean of the College of Human Services, Education and Public Policy; and Carolyn Thoroughgood, dean of the College of Marine Studies, where only graduate degrees are presented.

Also participating in the ceremony were Jenni Lileikis, a member of the Class of 2001, who led the singing of the national anthem and the alma mater; and Mary Martin, assistant provost, who read the names of the graduates. UD Spirit Ambassadors served as ushers, and music was provided by the Department of Music's Intermusica Ensemble.