AMHERST, Mass. - The umbrellas weren’t necessary after all, as approximately 4,000 University of Massachusetts undergraduates received bachelor’s degrees in nearly 100 majors during the school’s 129th Commencement held this morning in Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium.
About 20,000 friends and family members attended the ceremonies under threatening skies. University alumnus Rudolph F. Crew, chancellor of the Board of Education of the City of New York, was the main speaker. Crew also received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Lt. Gov. Jane M. Swift delivered the greetings of the commonwealth, saying the University has never been stronger.
She noted most of today’s UMass graduates will remain in Massachusetts, and she urged them to "wear your degree well" and "do it with pride." UMass President William M. Bulger conferred the degrees. In his remarks, Bulger quoted John Adams, who said "human nature, with all its infirmities and depravities is still capable of great things," and it is education that makes the difference "between man and brute."
Chancellor David K. Scott presided over the ceremonies. He called the new graduates the "scouts of the new millennium," and said "the world has high hopes for you." Scott also urged the graduates to "stay connected" to their families, friends, society, learning, and to UMass. Crew told the graduating class, "I bring you greetings from a million children in New York City, all of whom want to be where you are today."
Crew challenged the graduates to think about the future and said the key to success is learning to think differently and creatively. Crew said his father was a jazz musician who played with Duke Ellington and other great talents. He said his father and the other musicians always encouraged him to find ways to accomplish goals that others might find unattainable.
Crew also offered some advice on how the graduates should face the challenges they will encounter. "Be ever so humble, but keep going," Crew said. "Carry yourself like you intend to be somebody. You’re not average, you are a UMass graduate." He concluded his remarks by telling the graduates to "Follow your instinct and recognize that you didn’t get here alone."
Student speaker Jesse D. Burchfield, a legal studies major who served as attorney general for the Student Government Association, said the University is a place where students are actively involved in trying to solve the social ills of the world. Consequently, he decried the criticism of older "long-haired" pundits who label 20-somethings as Generation X.
"When our generation is marked with an X to designate apathy, they’ve got it wrong. I’m not sure where they’re looking, but they’re definitely not looking here," he said. In conclusion, Burchfield directed some advice to television news anchor Tom Brokaw, whose recent book "The Greatest Generation," praises the accomplishments of those who were in their twenties during World War II. "Before you start deciding who is the greatest generation, I say ‘hold the presses.’
We haven’t gotten there yet." In addition to Crew, the University also awarded honorary degrees to John P. Flavin, businessman, entrepreneur, and University alumnus who is national chairman of Campaign UMass; Shirley Ann Jackson, head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who will become president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in July; Wynton Marsalis, jazz musician and recording artist; and Diana Chapman Walsh, president of Wellesley College.