|Vol. 17, No. 16||Jan. 8, 1998|
During spring-like weather that almost would have allowed the exercises to be held outdoors, some 625 students attended the event to personally receive their degrees and warm congratulations from an audience of nearly 4,500 family, faculty and friends.
University President David P. Roselle welcomed those present, mentioning the special relationship between each graduate and his or her parents and friends, particularly those who helped the students during their years of study. He urged the new graduates to continue that tradition by seeking to "open doors for others."
Roselle also said that Commencement was an example of the "diversity we daily celebrate," with the class ranging in age from the youngest at 18 to the oldest at 74, and coming from 37 states and 44 countries.
The honor and achievement that each UD graduate receives, Roselle said, reflects well upon that individual but also enhances the value of the University degree for all other alumni and students.
Robert V.A. Harra Jr., BE '71, was the featured speaker. The president of Wilmington Trust Co. mentioned that he had asked his daughter, a recent college grad, for advice while preparing his remarks. She said, "Well, Dad, tell them: 'Good morning, good luck, have a nice life, and good-bye!'"
Harra agreed that the advice was appropriate, but added that he did want to share a few topics with the audience.
The Class of 1971 alumnus and former president of the UD Alumni Association explained his family's long association with the University-including his father and his wife.
"My message to you this morning," he said, "is to build meaningful relationships with those institutions that can significantly enrich your lives. For me, my family, my community, my place of worship and my university have provided me with an anchor, a sense of stability and a richness that makes my life more rewarding."
Harra said that in today's society, people are seeking fixed points of reference in order to attain a sense of fulfillment. This can be accomplished, he said, by an ongoing relationship with the University.
"But you will experience this reward," he said, "only if you commit yourself to the relationship, which means you must give something in order to get something in return."
He suggested a number of ways to maintain active contact with the Newark campus and with other alumni chapters throughout the country.
"My one piece of advice, therefore," he said, "is to make the University of Delaware a bedrock institution in your life.... You will be glad you did, for investing in such relationships provides the lasting satisfaction that will become increasingly important as you continue to grow."
Also during the ceremony, the Hon. Walter K. Stapleton, U.S. District Court judge, was presented the University's honorary doctor of laws degree by Andrew B. Kirkpatrick Jr., chairman of the University's Board of Trustees.
Kirkpatrick explained that the honorary degree is conferred upon individuals who have contributed to the quality of life of the state and nation or to those who have been recognized for their noteworthy achievements.
Former recipients of University honorary degrees include artist Andrew Wyeth, former President George Bush and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Stapleton has served Delaware and the nation as a federal judge for 27 years. Currently, he is the third most senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, a federal appellate court subordinate only to the United States Supreme Court. At the age of 36, he was appointed by President Richard Nixon to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, and he was the youngest judge ever to sit on that court.
A graduate of Princeton University, he received his law degree from Harvard University.
Kirkpatrick described Stapleton as a respected scholar, teacher and mentor and, as a revered advocate of the court, noting that his "dedication to both the intellectual and human aspects of the law is equaled only by [his] intense and careful consideration of all cases, driven by [his] deep respect of the people who come before [him] and [his] understanding of the impact of the law on their lives....
"Devoted husband, father and friend, you have graced the lives of all those you have touched. Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes said that, 'It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.' Walter K. Stapleton, you have thoughtfully rendered to your family, your colleagues and your friends a balance of wisdom and compassion, given ear to those who seek the truth and responded with understanding and justice," Kirkpatrick said.
Stapleton thanked the University for recognizing his achievements and said he was honored to be given an opportunity to share his thoughts with the new graduates. He advised the members of the Class of 1997 to realize that anxiety, insecurity and ambiguity are not to be feared but, instead, to be expected as they enter the real world.
But, he added, "learning can take the anxiety out of insecurity and ambiguity" and "the more we learn, the more freedom and flexibility we achieve... When you treasure each day," Stapleton said, "you will have learned to live gracefully."
The singing of the Star Spangled Banner and the Alma Mater was led by Kerry Ann Erickson, a member of the Class of 1997. Richard S. Mroz, AS '83, president of the University of Delaware Alumni Association, welcomed the graduates to that body, which includes more than 100,000 living members located around the world.
The Delaware Brass provided music for the processional and recessional.
In all, 1,288 students were eligible to receive degrees at Winter Commencement, including two associate degrees, 830 bachelor's degrees, 374 master's degrees and 82 doctorates.
The Hon. Walter K. Stapleton speaks to the Class of 1997 after receiving an honorary degree.
Photos by Jack Buxbaum