The Neag School of Education recognized graduates from the Class of 2013 during two ceremonies the weekend of May 11-12. The Neag School undergraduate commencement took place at the Jorgensen Auditorium on Sunday, May 12. Commencement for Neag School graduate students, including sixth-year students, took place Saturday, May 11, at Gampel Pavilion.
The Graduate School commencement speaker was Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric Corp. In additing to addressing students during the ceremony, Immelt received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Immelt was named to his current position at General Electric in 2001, following a nearly 20-year career with the company in increasingly responsible roles. Among many activities and achievements, he serves as a trustee of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library, as well as chair of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. He was named Financial Times’ “Man of the Year” in 2003 and has been named one of the “World’s Best CEO’s” three times by Barron’s.
The undergraduate ceremony featured nationally acclaimed author and Neag alumnus Wally Lamb ’72 BA, ’77 MA, as commencement speaker. He also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. President Susan Herbst introduced Lamb and led the conferring of his doctorate.
“As Neag School of Education faculty and alumni well know, stories have the power to educate and inform; to entertain and engage,” said President Herbst. “Told fearlessly and honestly, stories can move us, heal us, inspire us and make us feel alive. They can teach us about others and, perhaps most importantly, teach us about ourselves.”
“For his exceptional ability to use stories as a means to spark not just learning, but understanding, we are privileged to honor author and educator Wally Lamb,” she continued.
Lamb is the heralded author of such fiction best-sellers as She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much is True. Born in Norwich, Connecticut, Lamb was the director of the Writing Center at Norwich Free Academy from 1989-98 and an associate professor of creative writing in the English Department at UConn, where he also originated a student-staffed literary and arts magazine, The Long River Review. He currently resides in Mansfield.
Later in the ceremony, Lamb welcomed the audience and enthusiastically started his commencement message.
“Happy Mother’s Day,” he began. “Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, Ana (pointing to the sky), and my beautiful wife, Kris, who is the mother of our two kids and with me today.”
He opened his speech comparing rock stars who trash their hotel rooms to notable authors on tour, who are more quiet, solitary souls. Recalling a book tour from two or three years ago, his most memorable moment was in a hotel room in Dayton, Ohio, when he heard a question from Alex Trebek.
He was channel surfing and stumbled across the quiz show Jeopardy just at the moment when his name surfaced. “He wrote the novel, ‘She’s Come Undone’,” said Trebek.
“In the torturous pause that followed (audience laughter), the three contestants stood there lock-jawed and unable to press those thumbs to those buzzers,” said Lamb.
Lamb continued, “I uttered in a sheepish voice, ‘Who was Wally Lamb?’ ” More laughter from the audience.
Lamb went on to talk about his 40-year education and literacy career, weaving in touching and personal stories that kept audience members enthralled.
He also offered words of support and advice for the graduates as they chart their careers, concluding with “five things this teaching author and father has come to know.” To hear the five things, along with the rest of the speech, visit here.
Prior to Dr. Lamb’s speech, but before the more than 200 graduates received their diplomas, the platform party was introduced, and the Neag Alumni Society president offered a welcome. In addition, faculty member and University Teaching Fellow Dr. Alan Marcus was recognized with university-wide honors.
An associate professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Marcus has gained high respect from both colleagues and students for his scholarship and teaching. He presents a role model for teaching excellence, creating a student-centered learning experience, collaborating with peers and colleagues here and abroad, and continuously seeking student feedback.
Marcus’ success as an instructor exemplifies his special ability to reflect deeply on his teaching, to meld research and practice, to honor the profession, and to inspire students to aspire to be effective teachers and academic leaders.
Dr. Linda Pescatello, another Neag faculty member who received university-wide honors, was recognized at the graduate ceremony with the Board of Trustees Distinguished Professorship – the highest academic award UConn bestows —for her exceptional distinction in scholarship, teaching and service. Pescatello, who holds three degrees from UConn and has taught here since 1998, is an internationally recognized scholar on blood pressure response to exercise among people with hypertension.
A lifelong athlete, Pescatello is also studying the influence of exercise on cancer survivors, and is in the early stages of new research on the use of yoga to help manage stress and reduce substance use among veterans who attend college and methadone users.
After both ceremonies, graduates, family and friends were treated to receptions at the Gentry Building, offering a time for celebration and reflection.