Class of 2011 Celebrates Graduation With Celestial Greetings from Space Station
The 141st undergraduate Commencement at the University of Massachusetts Amherst soared to heavenly heights today as a crowd of 20,000 celebrated the graduation of 4,300 students and heard alumna Cady Coleman offer congratulations from 200 miles above Earth in the International Space Station.
In a videotaped address, astronaut Coleman told the graduates that "the possibilities for the future are limitless. You have the power of an education, and there’s a lot that you can do with that." Coleman challenged the Class of 2011 to address the many problems facing "this fragile oasis," Earth, by learning to build teams whose strengths complement each other. "Our world is a fragile place, and it has a lot of different, difficult situations that we as a people need to deal with. I think that you, as graduates, are part of the solution. The challenge there is that no single one of you can solve large problems all by yourself."
The NASA astronaut earned her doctorate in polymer science and engineering from UMass Amherst in 1991. She has been an astronaut since 1992 and is now a veteran of three missions. Joining Coleman in her salute was fellow space traveler Sam the Minuteman, bobble head version, who vigorously nodded approval of her remarks.
UMass Amherst Chancellor Robert C. Holub presided at the ceremony held at Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium. UMass President Jack M. Wilson, who is retiring this year, conferred the degrees, and was praised by Holub for his service to the university.
Holub told the graduates, "From this day forward, you will be a proud alumnus of an educational powerhouse, the flagship campus of the Common?wealth of Massachusetts. I hope that, as so many of our alumni have told me of their own experiences, you someday look back on your days here as a time of happiness, intellectual challenge and self-discovery."
During the ceremony, the university conferred an honorary doctorate degree to David Gergen, a former White House senior aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. He is currently a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, editor-at-large for U.S. News & World Report and a senior political analyst for CNN.
Gergen told the graduates, "There’s no graduation in America that’s better than this one!" He observed how fitting it is, 50 years after President John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts called upon the nation to send an explorer to the moon, that the commencement speaker at UMass Amherst is an astronaut and alumna, orbiting in space. "Best of all, this astronaut is a woman and she holds a Ph.D. degree in science from this university!"
This year’s student speaker, Alan Taylor Ulichney of Stow, Mass., earned a dual major in journalism and economics. He won a competitive internship at Jones & Bartlett Publishing in Sudbury last summer and used the opportunity to work in several departments at the firm. Ulichney intends to attend graduate school after taking some time to travel.
Eleven members of the graduating class were honored as 21st Century Leaders. This award recognizes graduating seniors who have demonstrated exemplary standards of achievement, initiative and social awareness.
Astronaut Cady Coleman addresses UMass Amherst graduates from space: