UMass Amherst Graduate Commencement Honors Tradition and Innovation

AMHERST, Mass.– The Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Amherst conferred more than 1,200 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.
Distinguished University Professor John J. McCarthy, marking his first Commencement as vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, said that well over 1,700 students earned graduate degrees at UMass Amherst during the just-completed academic year.
During a ceremony that repeatedly highlighted a spirit of academic innovation and daring, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy noted that fully one-third of those receiving advanced degrees were international students, representing a “global community of scholars.”
“One characteristic that all UMass students have in common,” said Subbaswamy, “regardless of what they study, or where they come from, is that you all are bright, bold, unconventional thinkers. Sometimes I think that is the real reason this is called the Pioneer Valley. At this campus, you receive an inheritance of innovation from forward-thinkers in all of your fields, across the decades.”
At the same time, Subbaswamy pointed to a notable element of academic pomp and tradition being introduced to the ceremonies this year.
“Today marks an important landmark in the history of our graduate school commencement ceremony,” he said. “For the first time, we are incorporating the old tradition of advisors hooding their advisees. This ritual underlines the importance of the mentor relationship in creating scholars who are part of a lineage. Your advisors honor you and acknowledge you as the future caretakers of your discipline.”
Holyoke’s Hank J. Porten, outgoing president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and its parent corporation, Valley Health Systems, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Under Porten’s leadership, which began in 1985, the system developed the first provider-based HMO in western Massachusetts. He also oversaw the formation of an Independent Practice Association, and the development and implementation of immediate care centers, occupational health centers, psychiatric clinics, as well as an incontinence clinic and a women’s health clinic.
Porten has also served on the Economic Council of Western Massachusetts, the Regional Employment Board and the Massachusetts Health Disparities Council.
In conferring the degree, UMass trustee Philip W. Johnston said that Porten had expanded health services in the Holyoke area “in ways that were unimaginable 10 to 20 years ago.”
“He did so against a steady tide of economic challenges,” said Johnston.