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Thousands Graduate From Colleges Across Connecticut


May 18, 2009

In 1969, Trinity College opened its doors to women.

On Sunday, 40 years later, it honored three of its most successful female graduates during the university's 183rd commencement. Among them was Joanna Jeanne Scott, an award-winning novelist, a Darien native and a 1982 Trinity graduate.

As a storyteller, she delivered three brief tales to the graduating class of 2009: one about a young man who was so argumentative and aggressively inquisitive that people called him "the wrangler" Galileo; one about a woman who kept a cool nerve in the face of all challenges Susan B. Anthony; and one about a woman full of life and "spunk" a college classmate of Scott's who died in a car accident before graduating.

"The world is looking rougher than ever these days," Scott said. "But you spent four years at Trinity, asking hard questions, overcoming obstacles and dreaming of the future. Now, you're ready to begin the next chapter."

Trinity's more than 600 graduates were among the thousands of students to receive college degrees across Connecticut Sunday. Students at Albertus Magnus College, Connecticut College, Fairfield University, Quinnipiac University, the University of Hartford and Saint Joseph College also turned their tassels Sunday.

At the University of Hartford's 52nd commencement, six of the approximately 1,300 graduates carried especially heavy expectations.

They are instructors from Herat University in western Afghanistan who spent 18 months at the University of Hartford earning their master's degrees. The graduates, who attended the university on a grant from the World Bank, will return to Afghanistan and teach that nation's next generation of civil engineers the skills they'll need to rebuild a war-torn nation.

For the past 15 years, the Taliban stifled higher education and many academics fled Afghanistan, university President Walter Harrison told the crowd gathered on the university lawn Sunday. The "brave group" came to the U.S. to learn, Harrison said, "so they could return to Herat and rebuild their college and university into a vital place of learning."

One of those men, Azizrahman Azimi, said his experience at the university and in the United States has filled him with ideas that he'll take home to Afghanistan.

Roughly 500 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees at Saint Joseph College's 74th commencement Sunday.

Sharon Kugler, the first woman and first lay Roman Catholic to hold the position of chaplain at Yale University, delivered the address at the commencement held at the college's West Hartford campus.

College President Pamela Trotman Reid warned graduates Sunday that "without a doubt, you are stepping into a society rife with social, cultural and economic concerns."

"The world needs your talents and abilities; we need your leadership, compassion, and commitment. I am supremely convinced that you are ready to take on the world," she said.

Quinnipiac University alumnus William Weldon, chief executive officer of Johnson & Johnson, said the university's graduating class is "going to take a special place in history."

"Perhaps no class in the past 80 years has faced a more perilous economic climate upon graduation," said Weldon, this year's commencement speaker.

More than 1,300 students graduated from the university's schools of business, communications and health sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences Sunday.

Weldon urged the graduates to become leaders who inspire others and nourish strong businesses. He advised graduates to establish their own personal credo that will guide them through life with principled direction.

Sitting in the audience Sunday was Robert Aliano, a Quinnipiac senior who was critically injured in an unsolved hit-and-run accident in Hamden last November. He would have been scheduled to graduate Sunday if he had not been injured.

Aliano's father said Aliano expects to complete his degree online in the next few years.

At Connecticut College, philosopher and feminist Martha Nussbaum urged Sunday's graduating class to advocate for liberal arts.

"The type of liberal education you have received is under assault all over the world in our time of economic anxiety," said Nussbaum, a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago. "Spread the word that what happens on this campus is not useless, but crucially relevant to the future of democracy in the nation and the world."

About 440 graduates received master and bachelor of arts degrees at the university's 91st commencement, which was delayed 90 minutes due to the weather.

Speaking at Fairfield University's undergraduate ceremony Sunday, Dr. Peter J. Pronovost, a critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, told 948 graduates that they are "entering a world that hungers for great leadership."

Pronovost, a Waterbury native and 1987 graduate of Fairfield University, said the college gave him a sense of purpose to help others and told graduates that their generation now has "the opportunity to make the world a better place." He was awarded a MacArthur "genius" grant this year for creating a checklist system for critical-care teams that has been adopted by medical groups worldwide.

"Fairfield taught me that I had a responsibility to lead," he said to graduates Sunday. "And so do you."

The university held a separate commencement for its 358 graduate students later Sunday afternoon.

Nearly 700 undergraduates and graduates received degrees from Albertus Magnus College Sunday during the school's 86th commencement exercises. The ceremony was held at the college's main campus in New Haven.

Three people received honorary doctorates of humane letters. They were : Sister Anne Kilbride, O.P. a member of the Dominican order and, most recently, the choirist of the founding congregation of the college; Margaret Badum Melady, former president of The American University of Rome; and Thomas P. Melady, professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., and former U.S. ambassador to Burundi, Uganda and The Holy See.

"Perhaps no class in the past 80 years has faced a more perilous economic climate upon graduation."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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