UMass Amherst Graduate Commencement Honors Student Teaching, Research and Outreach

May 11, 2012

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AMHERST, Mass. - The Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Amherst conferred more than 1,300 doctoral and master’s degrees this morning at commencement ceremonies that drew nearly 1,000 graduates, along with family members and friends to the William D. Mullins Memorial Center.

Outgoing Graduate Dean John Mullin, who is retiring this year, said it was the largest numbers of advanced degrees UMass Amherst has ever conferred.

During a ceremony that repeatedly highlighted the far-reaching accomplishments of the degree recipients, Chancellor Robert C. Holub praised the graduates for excellence in teaching, research and service.

"Your enthusiasm, intelligence, and skills bring undergraduates into fresh and productive dialogue with ideas. More of you than ever before have had your own ideas funded by research grants that enable your work in our laboratories, libraries and studios, as well as in the field," Holub told the degree recipients.

"Your dissertation titles reveal a breathtaking range of focus from the macro to the nano: from the laws of star formation to the Greenland ice sheet during the Pliocene, theatrical codes of conduct during Shakespeare’s time, and cortisol as determining the happiness of newlyweds in the first year of marriage.

"The great body of human knowledge is a living body: it is not just an inert mass that must be tended to, but something that needs exercise, restoration, regeneration, critique and challenge. You embody all of those attributes, as your accomplishments attest."

Alumnus Mark E. Russell (photo) was the keynote speaker, and received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. Russell is vice president of engineering, technology, and mission assurance for Raytheon Company of Waltham. He helped establish and continues to support Raytheon’s role in the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA), located at and led by UMass Amherst. Russell is Raytheon’s campus executive for UMass.

Russell said that CASA is the result of an ongoing 30-year relationship with the College of Engineering’s David McLaughlin, who directs the CASA program. "The result has been a government, industry, academic partnership that we can be very proud of. He added that his interest in tornados had been sparked by the 1965 destruction of his familial hometown of Primrose, Neb.

Russell also encouraged parents to urge their students to discuss the sometimes arcane and complicated focus of their graduate work.

"Have them tell you the stuff they do," said Russell. "You’ll find its really cool stuff."