The achievements of the University of Delaware's newest alumni are celebrated at Winter Commencement on Jan. 8 at the Bob Carpenter Sports/Convocation Center.

New grads

Class of 2011 honored at Winter Commencement

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3:36 p.m., Jan. 9, 2012--The newest members of the University of Delaware’s Class of 2011 and their achievements were celebrated during Winter Commencement ceremonies held Sunday, Jan. 8, in the Bob Carpenter Center.

University President Patrick Harker welcomed an audience of more than 4,000, which included more than 500 new Blue Hens, as well as UD faculty, administrators and members of the UD Board of Trustees. 

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“I can’t imagine a better way to begin 2012 than by congratulating the Class of 2011,” Harker said. “Today, we honor as well all the families and friends whose encouragement, love and support have gotten you to this milestone day.”

Following a hearty round of applause from the audience, Harker noted that for the first time in several years, job prospects were improved for college graduates preparing to enter America’s workforce.

“We found out on Friday, that U.S. employment has dropped to 8.5 percent, the lowest rate in nearly three years,” Harker said. “The country added 1.6 million jobs this past year, and for those filling them, 2012 looks a lot brighter than 2011 did.” 

Harker stressed that graduates entering the job market must be flexible in adapting to challenges that await them in an economic climate that seems to change more often than the weather. 

“I’m not suggesting you abandon your plans,” Harker said. “What I am suggesting is that you acknowledge that plans change, by your own doing or by circumstances beyond your control.”

Harker also challenged the graduates to continue to enjoy the thrill of discovering new things during an educational experience that should last a lifetime. 

“There is no rush, there is no finish line, only infinite knowledge to explore, and many years left for exploring,” Harker said. “I hope you do. Thanks and congratulations.” 

Robert McCracken Peck

Continuing the tradition of having a UD alumnus deliver the Winter Commencement address, Robert McCracken Peck advised members of the Class of 2011 to accept career challenges that may take them far beyond the futures they envisioned based on their classroom training and experiences.

A writer, naturalist, historian and photographer, Peck, who earned his master’s degree in the University’s Winterthur Program in American Cultural History in 1976, is curator of art and artifacts and senior fellow at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 

“Each of you has a unique combination of talents and experiences to offer the world. Don’t be afraid to let them show,” Peck said. “They are what will make you stand out and will ultimately allow you to make your greatest contributions.”

Peck also encouraged the graduates to do something that they love, because “life is too short to pretend to be something you’re not and too precious to let it pass in boredom or misery.” 

While his academic interests were in art history, archaeology and American cultural history, Peck found that his passion was for natural history and wildlife conservation, subjects he pursued outside the classroom.

“I wanted to travel the world and save endangered places and the wildlife that lived there,” Peck said. “The question was how to bridge this seeming gap between my formal education and a strong motivation to do something helpful for the natural world.”

What he discovered, Peck said, was that the seeming disparity between achieving personal satisfaction and the need to pursue a career based on academic qualifications is not as significant as might be imagined.

“I want to reassure those of you who are feeling that tension right now, that the distance between the two may not be as great as you think,” Peck said. “You need not necessarily abandon one for the other.” 

When he took a job at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Peck wondered what he could bring to a table that was already set with such an august history and populated with 200 scientists involved in worldwide research projects.

“The answers, I discovered, were the very things I thought were irrelevant to the scientific process, my training in history, art and literature,” Peck said. “By breaking down the perceived barriers between disciplines and communicating the relevance of the academy’s science to the day-to-day lives of the average citizen, I found that I was able to remove the tension I had felt between heart and mind when I left the university.”  

In noting that trade-offs between one’s life and career do occur, Peck said perhaps the best answer is working to achieve a professional and personal life that also has room for helping others and improving the world. 

“Your individuality and your idealism and your education are three of your greatest assets,” Peck said. “If you stay true to these, you cannot help but succeed.”

Earlier in the ceremony, A. Gilchrist Sparks III, chairman of the UD Board of Trustees, presented Peck with a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree, noting that he has "made significant contributions to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, not only through your historical and scientific work, but also through your unique interests and approaches.”  

Faculty greeting and alumni welcome

Jeffrey Jordan, professor of philosophy and president of the UD Faculty Senate, said that faculty members are especially aware of what students have accomplished during their academic careers. 

“We have taught and advised and interacted with you through the years and have seen how you have matured and mastered difficult subjects,” Jordan said. “And, as your professors, advisers and mentors, we are proud to certify you as graduates of our respective departments, and more importantly, as graduates of the University of Delaware.”

Darelle Lake Riabov, a member of the Class of 1973 and president of the University of Delaware Alumni Association, welcomed the Class of 2011 into the association.

“Whatever your future holds, you are linked to every other graduate here, through your common bond as Blue Hens,” Riabov said. “It is a matter of great pride that we can say that we’re Blue Hens forever -- something not everyone can say."

At the ceremony, the national anthem and the UD alma mater were sung by Keith Schwartz, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences from Kensington, Md. 

A reception was held on the concourse after the conferral of degrees.

From the graduates

Timothy Banaszak, from New Castle, Del., who received a master’s degree in accounting, said he enjoyed meeting a lot of new people and is ready to begin his career. “I also received my undergraduate degree in accounting at UD, I met a lot of new people here, and it was a great experience.” 

Jillian Frederick, a double major in English and art history, from Dewey Beach, Del., said, “I was a transfer student, and I like the whole atmosphere here at UD. I got to know my professors really well, and I like the feel of a small town like Newark.” 

Rodney Vodery, a resident of Bear, Del., who received his master’s degree in urban affairs and public policy, said, “It is a great feeling to be graduating. I felt that the curriculum at UD was very strong and has prepared me to go out into the world and be of service to the community.” 

H. Hannon, a criminal justice major from Baltimore, said. “The camaraderie here was very important. I’m also glad that the University stresses making friendships with international students, because it is always important to have contacts with other students in order to expand your horizons.”

Jooha Jeong, from Daegu, South Korea, who earned an MBA with a concentration in marketing, said, “I have loved being at UD. The professors have helped me whenever I asked, and I have been very happy here. I would like to work in the biotechnology or pharmaceutical fields.”

Su-Wei Lee, a finance and economics major from Taipei, Taiwan, who would like to work in the financial and banking industry, said, “The faculty and students at UD are great, and it’s a great environment in which to learn and have fun.”

Travis Gassner, an international relations major from Manasquan, N.J., said, “I’m glad I reached this point, and I’m ready for the next challenge. I’m glad my whole family could be here. I would like to work in the U.S. Foreign Service and get a job in government in Washington, D.C.” 

Nicole Suto, an energy and environmental policy major from Dover, Del., said “I really enjoyed the UD community. It is a great atmosphere for learning. I plan on getting a master’s degree in marine policy in the UD College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.” 

Click for:

Additional photos of Winter Commencement

A podcast of the ceremony

An article about the doctoral hooding ceremony

The full remarks by Robert McCracken Peck

Article by Jerry Rhodes

Photos by Evan Krape and Duane Perry

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