Celebrating Success, Life and What’s Next

More than 3,500 graduates and undergraduates received their University of Miami diplomas this week during six commencement ceremonies at the BankUnited Center.

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UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 11, 2014) — With much pomp, pride, joy and a tinge of sadness from those ending their magical and challenging collegiate ride, more than 3,500 graduates and undergraduates received their University of Miami diplomas this week during six commencement ceremonies held over three days at the BankUnited Center.

As one graduate noted on her mortarboard, UM is indeed a place where dreams come true.

For students like Meera Nagarsheth, the U was also the perfect place to “blend community service, academics, and social justice.” Nararsheth, who received a degree in microbiology and immunology at Friday’s ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences, looked at everything as a learning experience. “I never,” she said, “studied to pass a test but to gain a skill set.”

The ceremonies began Thursday with a fresh and unique commencement address from the dean of the Frost School of Music. Playing the piano and reciting the lyrics of Burt Bacharach’s classic song “Alfie,” Sheldon G. “Shelly” Berg shared the secret to life with post-graduates earning advanced degrees.

The exercises concluded Saturday evening, with the Miller School of Medicine conferring degrees on 160 of the nation’s newest physicians after Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, received an honorary Doctor of Science from UM President Donna E. Shalala and offered his inspirational wisdom.

In between, political theorist Danielle S. Allen, who harkened back to antiquity, the Declaration of Independence, and the poet Robert Frost to share a roadmap for living participatory lives today, and pioneering oceanographer Sylvia Earle, the National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who reiterated why oceans are the cornerstone of our existence, also received honorary degrees before addressing, respectively, graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences on Friday morning, and the graduates of the Schools of Architecture, Communication, Education and Human Development, and Nursing and Health Studies; the Frost School of Music; and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Friday afternoon.

Rounding out a cast of stellar commencement speakers were UM trustee, businessman, and former diplomat Charles E. “Chuck” Cobb, who spoke to engineering and business graduates Friday evening, and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, who addressed School of Law graduates Saturday morning.

UM President Donna E. Shalala also lauded the accomplishments and contributions of a number of retiring faculty, bestowing Presidential Medals on two of them—Norman Parsons, executive director of the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center and Miller School of Medicine Wellness Center, and Edward Gillis, dean of enrollment management, who over their collective 63 years of service, have helped transform the University.

Parsons, who joined the University in 1972 as intramural director after coaching the women’s golf team to two national championships, was honored for his unwavering commitment to equality and well-being on all fronts. Under his leadership, UM became the first university to allow women to participate in intercollegiate sports and offer athletics scholarships to women.

He later took a stand against Iron Arrow, refusing to accept the University’s highest honor until women were admitted into the honor society. And not least of all, he was instrumental in opening the Herbert Wellness Center and the new Student Activities Center, and fueling the University’s commitment to nurturing health and wellness as much as academic achievement.

Gillis, who arrived in 1992 and in Hurricane Andrew’s devastating wake, immediately unleashed his own, more benevolent storm, fueling the university’s rise into the top-tier by forever changing the face of admissions. He launched a student search and direct mail campaign that increased the number and quality of applicants, enhanced the college counselor conference program, implemented document imaging, and built the team of student ambassadors who lead campus tours, assist in recruitment, and represent the U with great distinction.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the results of his and their efforts were sitting in boisterous, joy-filled rows at the BankUnited Center, where, in her remarks, Sylvia Earle said the University’s Class of 2014 “are the best reason for hope” in a consumptive world facing multiple environmental and climatic challenges that threaten our very existence. After all, she noted, the Class of 2014 is lucky enough to come of age at a time where their UM degrees, and the “unprecedented knowledge” that they can carry around in their pockets magnifies the impact they can have on the world “like never before.”

“Think of yourselves as the generation of people with a lifeline to the future in your hands, because that is the way it is,” she said. “Never before has there been a better time, more reason for hope, than now because now we know what we could not know before. You, the Class of 2014, are the best reason, everyone of you, for hope.”

Indeed, hope came in many faces, including that of LaVette Richardson, who received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at UM’s midday graduation ceremony. She plans to return to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, one day to “make a difference” in the community that nurtured her.

Said Richardson, “It’s about helping others.”

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