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The gods are always in evidence at commencement exercises. Conspicuous by their activity in Alumni Stadium May 25 were the dieties of weather (soaking), family-feeling (glowing), and - as if in anticipation of the all-women's story-list we were fomenting for our summer issue - gender-balance. What more potent infusion of guy-ness could be imagined than a speech by columnist Mike Barnicle?
Make that Dr. Mike Barnicle. Moments before delivering the principal address, the feisty Boston Globe columnist and parent of Kara Barnicle '87 and Kathy Barnicle '88 received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from UMass. Here is his speech, which is also available from Robert N. Brooks, Director of Special Services, Student Affairs Office, Whitmore Building, UMass 01003. Rob also has ample supplies of programs and tassels for those whose momentos fell victim to the rain.
"How great is this, huh?
"I'll tell you one thing they don't sing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at Harvard, Smith, or Amherst the way that you people sang it here today -- All right.
"You know it's funny when I got here this morning at the place where we're all gathering someone came up and gave me this, this thing. And I thought, it's 1997 at UMass. I thought it was a giant pack of condoms.
"But guess what? It's a free raincoat. You're all gonna get one.
"There's a kid down there in the fifteenth row on the right using his cell phone, hang up for a couple of minutes.
"The good thing about an abbreviated graduation ceremony is you won't become comatose from the champagne until about noon-time and we'll be outa here ...
"Now I want to tell you this is the third UMass commencement I've been to. The first time I was here, the speaker was Mike Dukakis and the band fell asleep.
"The second time I was here the speaker was Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, and somewhere in America he's still speaking today.
"But he's a great guy, I love him.
"The reason I came here was to celebrate finishing paying another tuition. I had two daughters go through UMass and as you'll find out as you proceed along in life there is no better feeling than knowing that a check has cleared the bursar's office.
"They have very little senses of humor in the bursar's office.
"My kids walked away from here with the same thing you're going to walk away from here with today, they walked away with a degree from a wonderful university, they walked away with a terrific education, and they walked away with half of their roommates clothes.
"On the two days I was up here for those graduations, I couldn't help but notice the same thing I noticed this morning. How many parents are here with tears welling in their eyes. Let me tell you what they're crying about. They don't want you coming home.
"You have plans, so do they. They want to turn that bedroom into a family room. You know two years from now they don't want you sitting on the couch watching 'ER' telling them you're getting your life together. They want you to get a job, make some money, move on, go down the driveway, take a left.
"You know actually your lives are in great shape because of what you've managed to do here at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And this school is the soul of this state. This school, your alma mater, stands today like a sentry at the gate of the twenty-first century. And it's called the University of Massachusetts. But it's actually, you. And I guess everyone expects the commencement speaker to come up here and say a lot of lame things about how the future is ahead of you and you know never buy retail if you can help it. Live near an ATM, turn right on red but only with caution, stuff like that.
"Well, I'm not going to tell you that, nor am I going to tell you that you're the best generation of youth that this country has ever produced. For the simple reason you're not.
"Now, your challenge is that you might be, you might turn out to be the best generation of youth this country has ever produced. But that label, a union label, Mr. Sweeney, is worn by many of your grandparents that are here today, who lived through a depression, a world war fought on two fronts, came back to this country, got their education from the GI bill, bought their first homes with VA mortgages, and enabled all of us to be here today to receive a proud public education.
"What I'd like to do instead of giving you a big speech today is tell you a story. It's a story about the University of Massachusetts, about what it is. About its heart, its soul, and its meaning. And it is a story about people like Millie Padilla. Who is here today. Both of Millie's brothers went to the University of Massachusetts. Most of you have probably heard about them because both Edgar and Goodell played basketball. And they put this school on the map big-time. And they can't annul any of what they did no matter what they try to do at the NCAA. Right there for the NCAA, all right. Pound it. Yah, absolutely.
"Millie Padilla is also an All-American. She was born to parents who could not hear because they're both deaf. She was born on the island of Puerto Rico. A long way from Amherst. Millie Padilla had a drive as well as the same dream that you have. She was the one who urged her mother and father to come to America. She was the one who worked two jobs to help her family. She was the one who pushed her brothers toward goals and accomplishments. Like millions of other individuals and families throughout our history, the Padillas came to the United States, to Massachusetts, with their hopes, their pride, their dignity, and their dreams. And they made the state, the school and all the rest of us better by their mere presence.
"Millie Padilla is the University of Massachusetts. Just as are Phyllis and John Fortsch. The Fortsches have ten children. Six of those children have college degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Including Susanne, who's probably out here today, she majored in communications. Where is Susanne? All right Susanne. I don't even know her. But I know that she has a 3.7 GPA for four years. The reason I know about her is that her mother sent me her resume in the mail. Don't be embarrassed Susanne. It could work out. Take a shot. You know if you're ever given the choice between choosing between luck and skill in this life, always choose luck.
"The Padillas, the Fortsches, all of you here today are part of this great story about this great school. Now I want to tell you something that you all know. Today is the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. And Memorial Day in this country is about memory and honor and it's about sacrifice and courage, and it's about loss too. Years from now, actually probably about two o'clock this afternoon, none of you will have any clue about who gave the commencement speech at your graduation. Half of you, it appears, will be throwing up on your shoes out in the parking lot. But you know something, you will remember and you should remember what has happened here in the past four years.
"Let me wind this up by telling you the last part of my UMass story. It's about someone who isn't here today. Some one who once lived up the hill first at Plymouth and then at Chadbourne Hall. His name was James Baird. But his wife and his family and his friends called him Steve. Steve Baird was from Weymouth, MA. He was a public school kid all the way. So were his parents, his father worked for Boston Gas for thirty-seven years, they lived on the same street, in the same house they attended the same church for decades. Steve went to Weymouth High School. And then he came here to Amherst. He used to love to ride around town in a battered old Alfa-Romeo convertible. He loved the car, he loved his life and he loved this school. And in 1968, an absolute slum of a year for any of you who know anything about history, he graduated with honors from this school with a degree in economics.
"In addition to his car and the fun he always had and a woman named Karen whom he had known since the eighth grade when the two of them were in Pratt School in Weymouth, Steve Baird loved to fly. And right after graduation, not sure of what he really wanted to do, but knowing damn sure he didn't want to get drafted into the United States Army, he joined the United States Air Force. This was a long time before they screwed it up by going after Lt. Kelly Flynn I'll tell you. On June 21 1969. Steve and Karen Baird were married. On December 11th of that year he left for Vietnam. On Valentine's Day 1970 Karen Baird received a dozen red roses. Sent to her by her husband who flew planes out of Ben Wah Air Force Base in South Vietnam. The day after the roses were delivered, while they sat fresh and still full of life in a vase on a bureau at her home, an Air Force chaplain arrived at her door to tell Karen Baird her husband Steve had been killed. Two nights ago I spoke with Karen Baird. She's never remarried, and never forgotten the only man she's ever loved. And never forgotten the good times the two of them both had at this school.
"I found Steve Baird's name when I was going through the list of UMass graduates who gave their lives in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He was twenty-four when he died, he would have been about fifty-three today. He might have had a son or a daughter sitting right out here with you this morning. But he never got the opportunity to do what so many of us take for granted, to play catch with our kids, to dance till dawn, to get drunk at graduation. To hold hands, to watch a child graduate from college. Now this is kind of a sad story for such a happy day. But not all sad, because Lt. Stephen Baird ended up doing what he always wanted to do. He wanted to fly, and he did. He wanted to fly when he was a kid, and he wanted to fly when he was young and alive living in that old dorm up on that green hill in the rain up there. His time here allowed him to have that dream. UMass allowed him to fly. And I'm here today to tell you, that it's possible for each of you to fly. To fly toward all the goals you've ever set yourself. To fly with pride and dignity and the knowledge that this school, this honorable state school, this University of Massachusetts, has helped give all of you wings.
"Now I want you to be good to yourselves, and I want you to have tremendous good luck in life and stay dry. Thank you."
he scholar in Hillside House certainly has the credentials: the Berkeley Ph.D., the post-doctoral study at Oxford; the Fulbright, the Guggenheim, the Woodrow Wilson travelling fellowship; the grants from the Getty Foundation and the NEH; the curriculum vitae seven pages long. Then there's the recently published Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490, her contribution to a work of even greater magnitude, the multi-volume Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles.
Given all this, the erudition of Kathleen Scott is no surprise. What is, perhaps, is that she seems so delighted by our interest, as if that is a surprise to her.
Dr. Kathleen L. Scott resident, with her husband, Chancellor David K. Scott, of Hillside House on campus since 1994 is one of that rare breed of academic who manage to study, write, lecture, and publish without formal affiliation with a college or university. She is an independent scholar of international reputation and life-long dedication: Later Gothic Manuscripts, her magnum opus, was twenty-four years in the making.
The sixth and final installment of the Survey, Scott's book is actually a two-volume set that weighs about as much as a small baby. And it is her baby, not discounting Wendelin, Kelvin, and Jeremy, the Scott's children. The boys grew up with it, travelling yearly to England with their mother, babysitter in tow, so that she could examine manuscripts firsthand. "Manuscripts are like people, totally individual," Scott explains. "You have to see the original thing."
Of a thousand works created in the fourteenth century, Scott chose one-hundred-forty for Later Gothic Manuscripts, including medical, botanical, and topographical texts; works by Chaucer, Lydgate and Gower; chronicles and statutes of the Kings of England; and liturgical works such as the Sherborne Missals a massive, lavish, manuscript that is "decorated in the extreme," Scott says, and which she "loves and respects" most of all.
In the course of this massive research and writing project that Later Gothic Manuscripts represented, Scott also delivered lectures, organized conferences, and produced articles, studies, catalog essays, and two shorter books on related subjects. When she wasn't at her desk or in a library, she was variously tending her family and garden, campaigning for environmental causes, and chairing cello and poetry competitions. "I never set out to be a scholar," says Scott modestly; her book, however, is a masterpiece of scholarship, with descriptions and essays that are as meticulous and illuminating as their subject.
Scott came to the study of manuscripts as a doctoral student interested in "the relationship of art to literature." Alain Renoir, son of filmmaker Jean and grandson of painter Pierre, directed her to M.J. Delaissé, a Berkeley colleague and expert on "the technical archaeology of the book." Thus was she introduced to "codicology," the study of the physical aspects of early books.
Among the fascinations of this discipline is detective work. Because "the title page hadn't been discovered yet," as Scott puts it, the creators of medieval manuscripts, and their locations and dates, may all be mysteries. The codicologist seeks clues to a manuscript's origins in its ornament, its borders and illustrations, as well as its language.
In addition to the mystery of manuscripts, the sheer beauty of many of them justifies a lifetime of study. Before the printing press made mass publishing possible, art and text were far more integrated. Illustration was worked into the very letters of a book.
While it is probably the showiest specimens that people think of when they hear the term "illuminated manuscript," more modest examples are as heart-stirring in their own way. Kathleen Scott places in our hand a five-hundred-year-old prayer book, palm-size, bound in satiny leather, brown as a nut, exuding ancientness. To hold it is to hold something as dear, as fragile as a sleeping bird. Dream-shadows of other hands that held it hover over it. One imagines its first owner, a woman with the high forehead, pale skin, and downcast eyes of a Van Eyck patron, slipping it into a pocket after finishing her devotions. Its pages shine, the gilding casts back light. Small wonder Kathleen Scott has such enthusiasm for the objects of her scholarship. Faye S. Wolfe
Chief scientist on the Mars Pathfinder mission, Matthew Golombek '78,'81G, studied the geology of Mars, Earth, and the moon while earning his MS and Ph.D at UMass. He's worked on the Mars project since its inception five years ago at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Fellow alumnus and Pathfinder "Rock Czar" Nathan Bridges '97G joined the mission after completing his doctorate in April.
Fulbright scholar and brand-new graduate in linguistics Dainora Kupcinakas '97 will spend next year working with hearing-impaired teenagers in Lithuania.
Fellow Fulbrighter Catherine Mowbray, doctoral student in English, will research her dissertation on children in Holocaust literature at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Misbehavior created red marks for a goat entered in the 62nd Annual Livestock Classic by history major Tara Dixon. "She took an apple from a baby," revealed Dixon, "and tried to eat my hair." About eighty UMass students spent the sunny April morning running horses, pigs, goats, cattle and sheep through their paces during the contest staged at the Hadley Farm by the Department of Veterinary and Animal Science.
Second in the nation in its third year as a varsity squad, UMass women's crew took the silver medal in the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships in California in June.
The Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace Prize winter Oscar Arias Sanchez were in Sweden in June for a human-rights symposium that psychology professor Ervin Staub helped organize. The subject was genocide; among the ideas discussed was Staub's notion of the "active bystander" who strives to halt and prevent violence.
Coach Pam Hixon is leaving UMass after seventeen seasons, to take over as full-time coach of the national women's field hockey team, which she led during the 1996 Olympics. National Coach of the Year in 1981, Hixon took UMass to the Final Four four times and racked up a 272-75-18 record.
Replacing Hixon at UMass will be Patty Shea '84, former member of the US Field Hockey coaching staff and of the 1996 and 1988 US Olympic field hockey teams. Says Shea, "It's nice to come home."
"One of the most prolific historians publishing today" is UMass history professor Stephen Oates, according to a New York Times reviewer of The Approaching Fury: Voices of the Storm, 1820-1861. Oates has published sixteen volumes of biography over a period of thirty-six years.
"The Jackie Robinson Initiative" went to Washington this spring as political scientist Jerome Mileur and historian Ron Story, co-creators of the innovative course on campus, moderated a series of panels of baseball greats, sports writers, historians, big-league executives, and others at the Smithsonian Institution.
Shaving in-state tuition for the second year in a row this time by five percent has earned UMass kudos from the Springfield Union-News and other papers. Rates are now $2,004 for undergraduates, $2,640 for graduate students.
Milestones in financial aid, 1990-95: Total aid has nearly tripled ($40 million to $110 million). Need-based aid has more than doubled ($30 million to $70 million). Institutional contribution has tripled ($3.2 million to $10.2 million). And the number of students with need-based aid has almost doubled (1,400 to 2,500). (related stories)
A book by late mathematics professor M.K. Bennett '66G, who died in March, has been cited by the Association of College and Research Libraries as one of the outstanding academic books of 1996.
Novelist and professor John Edgar Wideman recently shared a Sports Illustrated cover with his daughter Jamila, who played basketball for Stanford. The accompanying story chronicled how the Widemans cope with the anguish of having two close relatives in prison.
The largest student-built health clinic in the nation, a seven-room collaboration between UMass and the Putnam Vocational and Technical High School in Springfield, officially opened in March and serves 1,300 students at the school. And at the Amherst Shelter for Adolescents, four nurse-practitioner students have been volunteering to do routine physicals on residents and refer them to doctors at the University Health Services.
Elsewhere on the globe, students in the graduate nurse-practitioner program spent two weeks working in a church-based clinic in Ghana; another group spent most of January at a hospital in St. Thomas Parish, Jamaica. That same month, nine other UMass students worked in community hospitals in Northern Ireland.
UMass ranks eleventh nationwide in "substantial proportionality" between men and women athletes, according to a study published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The data found 46 percent of UMass student-athletes were women, with 405 women in fifteen varsity sports compared with 467 men in fourteen. Such progress, writes the Daily Hampshire Gazette, "makes it clear that equity in athletic programs is the right thing to do."
Celebrated coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team Rick Pitino '75 is moving to the top job with the Boston Celtics hot on the heels of publication of his new motivational book, Success is a Choice: Ten Steps to Overachieving in Business and Life.
Another former Minuteman, Al Skinner '74 has been named head basketball coach at Boston College after several successful seasons coaching the Rhode Island Rams. The Rams went 20-10 last season.
Hoops luminary Julius Erving '72 appeared via satellite at the Alumni Association-sponsored sixth annual Tribute to UMass Basketball. In June, Erving was named executive vice president of the Orlando Magic, whose general manager described him as "synonymous with excellence."
Minuteman basketball may not have reached the Final Four this spring, but head coach Bruiser Flint made it to the title game at the movies. In the recently released The Sixth Man, Flint coaches the UMass team in a mythical final against the University of Washington. "All I know," said Flint about his screen debut, " is it's about a ghost."
The $13-million Mass Ventures Equity Fund is open for business, investing amounts from $200,000 to $1 million in companies from the state's four western counties. The fund will continue raising capital until it reaches $20 million.
Sixteenth among 1,000 teams in the international finals of an undergraduate programming contest in California this spring, UMass students Brian Hanechak, Ben Horowitz and John Sullivan came in second, tied with Harvard, in the regional semifinals.
Nursing student Julie Watson was one of fifty-two students nationwide to receive a Fuld Fellowship from the nation's largest foundation devoted exclusively to excellence in nursing education.
Tutoring support for student athletes has been enhanced by two new Campaign UMass gifts. A $5,000 challenge gift from Amherst Process Instruments alumnus Trent Poole '73 is vice president follows the firm's earlier contribution of $50,000 for a study lab in Boyden Gym. A second $5,000 comes in from Springfield attorney Earl Seeley.
Two-time winner of the National Business Plan Competition, and she's only 18: Victoria Groves of Chelmsford is using the summer between her freshman and sophomore years to put in extra time on her desk-top publishing business. The UMass student was the subject of a Reuters Business Report story in June.
The weight of two whale pups? The swim-speeds and feeding habits of their parents? These are the kinds of math problems grade-schoolers get to work on via the new "WhaleWatch" software devised by the UMass Center for Computer-Based Instructional Technology and already in use at Lincoln Elementary School in Springfield.
The international book fair in Bogota, Colombia, this spring counted among its half-million visitors UMass Press director Bruce Wilcox, who spoke on marketing academic and cultural publications and new publishing technologies, and Journalism department chair Norm Sims, whose Literary Journalists has just been published in South America.
Gladys Hager '41, a member of the campus' William Smith Clark Society, started Project Blue Skies to aid citizens of the Kentucky town of Falmouth flood-ravaged namesake of her home town on Cape Cod.
Making news with his book Tough Calls, a primer on how to succeed with different types of difficult customers, is Josh Gordon '73. The book has been mentioned on NPR, CNBC, Wall Street Journal Television, and the Business News Network, and featured in such industry publications as Selling Magazine.
The instant success of UMass women's water polo is an example of a program being boosted by Title IX. A club sport until several years ago, the team started its season 13-3, including its first-ever win against a Top-10 team, USC.
Among twenty-six finalists for four slots in the GTE Academic All-American Hall of Fame are Megan Donnelly '86, a four-time All-American in field hockey, and Sue Peters '80, UMass' all-time leading scorer in women's basketball. Finalists must have maintained at least a 3.0 in college, attained high achievements in their professions, and made substantial contributions to their communities.
The academic progress of UMass basketball players Tyrone Weeks and Sabriya Mitchell has been rewarded by a recent NCAA ruling allowing them a fourth year of sports eligibility. Both were academically ineligible to play as freshmen; both have now completed requirements for degrees in education. The two will take additional courses in Afro-American Studies while playing for the Minutemen next year.
- compiled by Charlie Creekmore