AMHERST, Mass. - The 78th Commencement of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts was held May 20 in Bowker Auditorium on campus. Associate degrees were conferred on 107 students in the six majors of arboriculture and park management; equine industries; fruit and vegetable crops; horticulture; landscape contracting; and turfgrass management.
Commencement speaker was Stockbridge Class of 1988 alumnus Jeffrey B. LaFleur, executive director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers'' Association, Wareham, Mass., one of the oldest agricultural trade associations in the country. LaFleur also holds a B.S. degree from UMass in plant and soil sciences.
In his address, LaFleur urged graduates to take up the cause of agricultural literacy. He said people in Massachusetts and across the country "need a better understanding of the connection between food and agriculture." He said: "We are at war with agriculture illiteracy. We need to educate people about agriculture." He said the image most people have of the agriculture industry is out of date, from the early part of the 20th century.
Chancellor David K. Scott recalled the Class of 1900 in his remarks to the graduates, and said, "No other school on campus comes as close as you to the original vision of Massachusetts Agricultural College." He also quoted George Washington, who said: "I know of no pursuit in which more real and important service can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture." Scott added: "I suspect that comment is still true today, even in the Information Age."
Scott commended the graduates for "making a visible difference on campus, by planting perennial gardens, seating areas, and other pockets of cultivated beauty." He noted, "You''ve received many awards, including a Silver Medal at the New England Flower Show." He also said the class was part of the first school ever to receive the prestigious National Arborist Association Award of Merit.
Cora B. Marrett, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, also noted the students'' participation in the New England Flower Show, and said the show''s Year 2000 theme, "A Symphony for the Senses," is also a fitting theme for the Stockbridge School. She said the Web site for the Year 2000 flower show featured a "garden for the senses," a display from the Stockbridge School. She also said: "We at the University are enriched by the Stockbridge School."
Nancy L. Garrabrants, director of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and a UMass alumna, gave special thanks to two "loyal supporters of Stockbridge," who, she said, had contributed a lot to the Stockbridge School over the years: Barbara Aldrich, concert manager and programmer of Children''s Performances for the Fine Arts Center, who assisted at many events held in Stockbridge Hall and who is retiring this summer, and Robert G. Helgesen, dean of the College of Food and Natural Resources (in which the Stockbridge School is located), who is stepping down in July to become vice chancellor for outreach.