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Graduate School holds first commencement ceremony

Author: Arts and Letters

“It’s not every day that someone from Michigan is applauded at Notre Dame,” University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said today (May 19) during her Commencement address at the University.

Today was clearly not just any day at Notre Dame, but a notable day when the University’s Graduate School held its first distinct commencement ceremony in the Leighton Concert Hall of the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.

In previous years, students who earned master’s and doctoral degrees attended a combined Sunday University ceremony in the Joyce Center. Freed from the time constraints of the University-wide ceremony, the Graduate School had an opportunity to recognize the 116 master’s and 114 doctoral recipients in attendance and present several special awards.

Coleman, a distinguished biochemist who has served as president of Michigan since 2002, was the principal speaker for the event.

“You are unique because you are the first class of graduate students to be honored with your own ceremony at this historic institution,” Coleman told the graduates. “And you are unique because as that first class, you are the role models for a University that is telling the world: we take graduate education and research very seriously at Notre Dame.”

Coleman lauded the commitment to research and graduate education.

“This is a noble effort for Notre Dame, and a needed effort for our nation,” she said. “Society is hungry for talented scientists, engineers, humanists, architects and social scientists, and is looking to our best universities for answers and solutions to the challenges that face us.”

Coleman urged the graduates to apply their intellect, in the words of one of her predecessors as Michigan president, Henry Tappan, “in whatever direction they choose.”

“With your talents and your creativity, you are entering all arenas of our changing world with your critical thinking, your research prowess, and your passion for compassion,” she said. “You are going to enhance your communities, our universities, our corporations, and our public institutions.”

Notre Dame President, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., and its provost, Thomas Burish, were in attendance at the event.

The ceremonies were led by Don Pope-Davis, dean of the Graduate School, and were attended by other University academic officers and deans.

The school’s first commencement also featured the presentation of Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Awards to the top graduating doctoral degree recipients in the humanities, social sciences, science and engineering. The honorees were Matthew Grow, in history; Joshua D. Cameron, in aerospace and mechanical engineering; Joseph R. Rausch, in psychology; and Dori Woods, in biological sciences.

Julia Knight, Charles L. Huisking Professor of Mathematics and director of graduate studies for mathematics since 2003, was presented with the University’s James A. Burns, C.S.C., Graduate School Award during the ceremony. The award is given annually to a faculty member for distinction in graduate teaching or other exemplary contributions to graduate education and honors the first Notre Dame president with an advanced degree.

To further celebrate its first distinct commencement, the Graduate School presented its inaugural Distinguished Alumnus Award to Saskia Sassen, Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and Centennial Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. Sassen, who earned her doctorate in sociology and economics in 1974, is recognized as one of the world’s most important social science voices on the subject of globalization.

Originally published by William G. Gilroy at on May 19, 2007.