There were hugs all around during the doctoral hooding ceremony.

131 doctorates awarded

Recipients of highest degree head off to industry, academia

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(Editor's note: For additional images from the University of Delaware's doctoral hooding ceremony, click here. For images of the Department of Physical Therapy ceremony, click here.)

4:18 p.m., Jan. 13, 2014--The University of Delaware conferred academia’s highest degree on 131 students from 17 countries at the doctoral hooding ceremony held at the research-intensive institution. 

In front of proud family and friends in Mitchell Hall on Sunday, Jan. 12, UD’s graduating doctors of philosophy and education were invested in the velvet-lined hoods marking their entrée into education’s elite. Only about one percent of the U.S. population has earned a doctoral degree.

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The previous day, the new doctors of physical therapy received their hoods in a separate ceremony. 

But UD’s new doctoral graduates won’t be resting on their laurels. Society is counting on their leadership, University President Patrick Harker said.

Harker congratulated the degree recipients and applauded the family and friends who supported them on their path to achievement. 

Then he offered the conferees three suggestions for the future: to be open to new opportunities, to put their knowledge to use for the global community, and to be grateful for the lineage of scholars they now join.

“You kept asking questions until the experts ran out of answers,” Harker said, reminding the graduates how they got to this point. “Whatever you pursue, we’ll be richer for it.” 

James Richards, UD’s vice provost for graduate and professional education, presided over the hooding ceremony, with assistant provost Mary Martin introducing the degree candidates, who came up on the stage, one by one, to receive their diploma and hood.

The freshly minted graduates will put their knowledge to work at the U.S. Army Research Lab, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, JPMorgan Chase, Air Products and Chemicals, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, MathWorks, Siemens, Sussex Academy, Wilmington PharmaTech, Texas A&M University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Virginia Commonwealth University, among many others.

Participating in his first hooding ceremony at UD since he joined the University this past fall, Provost Domenico Grasso shared four humorous “bits of knowledge” with the scholars before concluding the ceremony: 

First, the hood is not only fashionable, but practical — ages ago, coins would be tossed into the scholar’s hood for payment. 

Second, Christmas vacation is now just one day — demands on a scholar’s time seem to grow exponentially, with teaching assignments, writing proposals and papers, etc.  

Third, the title “doctor” comes from “docera,” meaning to teach. Grasso challenged the doctoral recipients, now many years steeped in the language of the learned (using terms like “quantum dots”), to explain their degree program to their families in an understandable way. 

Fourth, in the military, a “provost is the keeper of the jail keys,” Grasso said, smiling broadly at the conferees. “I’m ready to unlock the gates!” 

Taffy McAneny, from Landenberg, Pa., was ecstatic to receive her doctorate in education. An instructor in the math department at West Chester University, she formerly taught at William Penn High School for 15 years. “It’s great, isn’t it?” she said, triumphantly. “It’s done!”

Delawarean Joseph Brobat will now pursue his postdoctoral degree at Western Washington University, focusing on science education research and evaluation. 

“I’m going from one side of the country to the other,” he said. The former high school science teacher previously earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at UD. 

Kyle Winfree, the recipient of a doctorate in biomechanics and movement science, is staying on at UD to pursue postdoctoral research. 

“I came to UD because I wanted to do research with impact, and that’s what I’ve been able to do,” said Winfree, an Arizonan who now lives in Philadelphia.

He’s already the co-author of three different patents, for the ALEX robotic exoskeleton that can help stroke survivors regain leg function and for the PDShoe and SEnsole. These latter two devices are designed to help people with Parkinson’s disease to walk more smoothly and steadily. 

Fan Yang, who received her doctorate in materials science and engineering, will return to Taiwan to work at KLA-Tencor, a semiconductor tool company. 

She said her aunt, who lives in California, encouraged her to pursue her doctorate in the United States because of the unmatched quality of a U.S. education. Her aunt traveled to UD to celebrate Yang’s achievement, as did friends from New York.

“The University of Delaware’s reputation in engineering is truly impressive,” Yang said. “UD also has been a great place to experience the American culture.”

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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