At UMass Amherst Commencement, Neil deGrasse Tyson Addresses 5,500 Graduates at Flagship Campus

 AMHERST, Mass. – Approximately 5,500 candidates received bachelor’s degrees during today’s Undergraduate Commencement of the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a crowd of 20,000 heard internationally renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson deliver the commencement address.

Tyson reflected on the importance of education, the fleeting value of SAT scores, the need to challenge fellow citizens about faulty logic rather than blame the political leaders they elect, and the ultimate challenge of forging one’s own identity.

“Role models are overrated,” he said, reflecting on growing up in the Bronx. “If I had required another black man who was an astrophysicist in the Bronx” to be an inspiration, “I would not have become one.” Rather, he advised, graduates should draw on the admirable qualities of many people and create their own model of success.

Tyson emphasized that “science and technology matter,” noting that the free- range diet enjoyed by cavemen and cavewomen resulted in a life expectancy of 35, which is greatly exceeded today due to advances made possible by science.

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy presided at the Commencement ceremony held at Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium, and UMass President Robert L. Caret conferred the degrees.

 Addressing the graduates, Subbaswamy said, “When you leave campus this evening, you will begin an exciting new phase of your life: for as college-educated adults, you are fortunate to have many opportunities ahead of you. And, having seen the Class of 2015 in action, I have no doubt you will make good use of these opportunities. You have had extraordinary achievement in the classroom, the lab, and the studio. And your co-curricular contributions to campus life have been equally successful. You are smart, resourceful, and civic-minded.”

Also honored were UMass Amherst alumni Charles H. Sherwood and Patricia Crosson and John Calipari, former head men’s basketball coach at UMass and current head coach at Kentucky. They were presented Distinguished Achievement Awards, which recognize high accomplishment in a given field or profession and notable contributions to society.

The student speaker was Erin K. Mabee of Saugus, a theater major. In September, she will be serving City Year Boston, teaching in the classroom and in after-school programs.

Ten graduates, six from Commonwealth Honors College, were honored as 21st Century Leaders for far-ranging achievement, initiative and social awareness. They are: Chibuzo Christopher Anene, a nursing major who grew up in Brockton;Kelsey Barowich, a women, gender, sexuality studies major from Lowell; Stephen R. Chan of Swampscott, who created his own major in neuroscience and global business through the Bachelor’s Degree with Individualized Concentration program; Stefan Marco Eres, a chemistry major from Knoxville, Tenn.;Xuyen Mai, a major in civil and environmental engineering from Revere;Sorelle Kevine Chimi Mbakop, a dual major in journalism and resource economics from Framingham; Curt Owen, a management major from Boxborough; Marissa Louise Shea, a civil and environmental engineering major from Somerset; Dorothy Tovar, a microbiology major from Billerica, and Hannah Weinronk, a public health sciences major from Lexington.

Four graduating seniors were recognized for their leadership and executive ability as Jack Welch Scholars.They are Jennifer E. Black of Taunton, a mechanical engineering major with a minor in engineering management and a member of Commonwealth Honors College; Nicholas Chunias of Sudbury, a dual degree recipient in finance and mathematics; Kyle Parrott of West Springfield, an operations and information management major and Timothy R. Tufts of West Wareham, a computer systems engineering major with a minor in mathematics. He is a member of Commonwealth Honors College.

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