Richard F. Heck, UD professor emeritus and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, addresses those attending the doctoral hooding ceremony.

Doctoral hooding

UD awards record number of doctoral degrees during ceremony Friday

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To view a podcast of the ceremony, click here.

2:13 p.m., May 28, 2011--The bagpipers leading the University of Delaware’s doctoral recipients to their hooding ceremony on Friday, May 27, took a different course than usual. To accommodate all of the doctorate earners, and their families and friends, the ceremony had to be moved to a gymnasium in the Carpenter Sports Building for the first time.

Inside, excitement filled the air as proud and happy well-wishers assembled to watch the draping of a four-foot-long hood, royal blue on the outside, blue and gold on the inside, around each doctoral recipient’s neck, a symbol of completion of the University’s highest academic degree.

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“Graduate education at the University of Delaware is growing and flourishing,” said Charlie Riordan, vice provost for graduate and professional education, during his welcoming remarks.

The awarding of 276 doctoral degrees this spring marks a new record that eclipses last year’s by 15 percent, Riordan said. At Saturday’s commencement, 967 master’s degrees also will be awarded.

“Growing” was a big theme of the ceremony. University President Patrick Harker told the doctoral recipients their work “will plant a seed from which a garden—lush and verdant beyond our understanding—will grow, inspiring a whole new generation of thinkers, and yielding a whole new raft of solutions to problems we once considered impossibly dense.”

Harker highlighted the transformational work of Richard F. Heck, UD’s Willis F. Harrington Professor Emeritus and winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The “Heck Reaction, ” which uses the metal palladium as a catalyst to get carbon atoms to link up, has changed the world in such vast areas as pharmaceutical development to electronics manufacture, DNA sequencing and new energy technologies. 

The University honored Heck with a scholarly symposium and the declaration of “Richard Heck Day” on May 26 and further recognized the Nobel Laureate with an honorary degree at Commencement on Saturday. 

In his address, Heck told how he became a chemist. When he was a teen, his parents moved from Massachusetts to a new lot, “a piece of desert,” near Los Angeles. He and his dad worked “to get something to grow on that land,” which piqued Heck’s interest in learning about what compounds were aiding or ailing the plants. 

He took chemistry in high school and continued on at UCLA for both undergraduate and doctoral degrees. Following postdoctoral research in Switzerland, he took a position at Hercules in Wilmington, Del. The company later was reorganized and Heck and other staff were moved off the payroll because they were working in areas that were no longer a focus of the company. He was offered a position at UD, where he pursued research until he retired in 1989.

Heck says his early interest in chemistry, which was sparked by plants, turned into a passion under the mentorship of Saul Winstein, a much-admired professor at UCLA. Today, Heck continues to enjoy growing orchids at his home in the Philippines.

Doctoral awards bestowed

Five students won dissertation awards, and one faculty member was honored for outstanding graduate advising and mentoring.

Gaurav Nilakantan, materials science and engineering, won the Allan P. Colburn Prize in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences for “Modeling the Impact of Flexible Textile Composites Through Multiscale and Probabilistic Techniques.” His dissertation chair was John W. Gillespie, Jr.

Michael Charles Grillo, political science and international relations, won the George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences for “The Social Psychology of Leadership and Followership in Symbolic Politics Theory: The Case of Islamophobia in American Politics.” His dissertation chair was Stuart J. Kaufman.

Timothy Andrew Mckinnon, linguistics and cognitive science, received the Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in Humanities for “The Morphophonology and Morphosyntax of Kerinci Word-Shape Alternations.” His dissertation chair was Peter Cole.

Juan Carlos F. Rodriguez-Reyes, chemistry and biochemistry, won the Theodore Wolf Prize in Physical and Life Sciences for “Chemical Control Over the Formation and Reactivity of Ultra-Thin Films and Amino-Terminated Layers on Silicon.” His dissertation chair was Andrew V. Teplyakov.

Glenn L. Silverstein, urban affairs and public policy, won the Dan Rich Prize for Making a Difference for Delawareans for “Unlocking the Black Box: How Delaware Elementary Schools Fulfilled the Expectations of Performance Measures and Accountability.” His dissertation chair was Jeffrey A. Raffel.

Ronet D. Bachman, professor of sociology and criminology, received the Outstanding Doctoral Graduate Student Advising and Mentoring Award. 

As the newly hooded doctoral recipients exited the building, some wore a look of calm satisfaction while others posed for pictures, ready to celebrate a bit before opening life’s next chapter.

Joe Gardimier, from Fort Collins, Colo., earned his doctorate in biomechanics and movement science. His next stop is the University of Michigan for postdoctoral research on his way to becoming a professor.

Li Young Kim, her arms filled with flowers, said she had “lots of obstacles and emotions to overcome” working on her doctorate in political science and international relations so far away from her home in Seoul, South Korea, during the past seven years, and now she’s “so happy.” She’s also aiming for a career as a professor.

Keeley Powell, from Newark, Del., completed her doctorate in educational leadership and will continue working as a program specialist at Rowan University. She got her bachelor’s at UD and her master’s at the University of Maryland. 

“I loved my classmates and my professors here at the University of Delaware,” said Powell, smiling brightly. “My adviser, Gail Rys, was awesome!”

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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