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“Be Just as Proud of How You Succeed” Coach Jen Rizzotti Tells 1,400 University of Hartford Graduates

Posted 05/17/2010
Posted by David Isgur

Under beautiful blue skies, the University of Hartford conferred degrees to the 1,426 members of its Class of 2010 at its 53rd annual Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 16. "The skies today are sunny and bright, but your future is even brighter," University President Walter Harrison told the graduates.

The Commencement address was delivered by University of Hartford head women's basketball coach Jennifer Rizzotti, who urged the graduates to retain a sense of community as they go out into the world. "I'm a basketball coach," Rizzotti said. "I don't know much about stem cells, fuel cells or terrorist cells, but I am certain that I've made a difference in my community. And while not every one of you will go out and change the world, every one of you has the chance to go out and make a commitment to your community.

"The best advice I can give you today is to decide what your definition of success is and how you will measure it," Rizzotti continued. "After all my years of coaching and however many games I've won, I will always measure my professional success by the impact I make on the lives of my players. At the same time, I value my personal success even more," she added. "Finding the balance in my life to be a good wife, mother, daughter and sister is equally important to my fulfillment. So always remember to be just as proud of how you succeed as you are of the accomplishment itself."

In her 11-year career at the University, Rizzotti has built the women's basketball program into an America East power and a nationally recognized program. During the 2009-10 season, the Hawks earned their first national ranking, rising to as high as 19th in the nation in one poll. While introducing Rizzotti at the Commencement ceremony, President Harrison noted that the women's team was recently recognized for their exceptional work in the classroom as part of the NCAA's academic performance program. "Jen's team is not only among the top ten percent on the basketball court but they are among the top ten percent in college classrooms as well," said Harrison.

Under Rizzotti's leadership, the Hawks have won four regular season championships in the past five years, won four America East tournament championships in eight years, and made five trips to the NCAA women's basketball tournament. In addition to her coaching responsibilities, Rizzotti is very involved in the community. In 2009, she was co-chair of the United Way Community Campaign and spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's No Child Left Inside initiative. In 2008, she served as honorary chair of the University's National Kidney Foundation Walk.

The Commencement ceremony also featured a "Charge to Class of 2010" by Taryn Brandt, a class member and psychology major who is currently a figure skating instructor at the International Skating Center in Simsbury. "If there is one thing that the University of Hartford has shown me, it is the importance of community in fostering the growth if individuals who will eventually be the future of our world. Today, I look out in front of me and see the infinite possibilities - each one of you holds the power to change the world through your passion as a leader in your field."

The main Commencement ceremony began at 10 a.m. on the lawn in front of the Gengras Student Union and was attended by approximately 10,000 people - the 1,426 graduates, their families and friends, and University faculty and staff, and special guests. After the main ceremony, students went to the ceremonies of the University's seven schools and colleges where they received their diplomas.

At the main ceremony, the University presented honorary doctorate degrees to Hartford Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist who studies the roots of happiness, and Grammy Award-winning composer William Bolcom.

The following honors and awards were to presented to University faculty members, alumni and students at the main Commencement ceremony

Adrian Alexis Ruiz, a biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, is this year's winner of the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize, which is awarded for academic excellence.

Neftali Torres of Hartford received the John G. Lee Medal, which is given to a graduating senior from Greater Hartford who has excelled academically and demonstrated a deep commitment to the community.

Susan Coleman, professor of finance in the Barney School of Business, received the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Award for Sustained Service to the University.

Robert L. Duran, professor of communication in the College of Arts and Sciences, is this year's recipient of the Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching.

John Feierabend, director of the music education division, chair of undergraduate music education, and professor of music education at The Hartt School, has made immense contributions to the field of music education worldwide and was awarded the James E. and Frances W. Bent Award for Scholarly and/or Artistic Creativity.

Donn Weinholtz, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership in the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions, is the recipient of the Donald W. Davis All-University Curriculum Award.

The Belle K. Ribicoff Junior Faculty Prize, now in its second year, was awarded to Catharine "Cat" Balco, assistant professor of painting and drawing at the Hartford Art School.

Kathleen M. Behrens '85, an NBA executive who earned a Bachelor of Science from the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions, was awarded the University's Distinguished Alumni Award.

Marin Ireland '00, a Tony Award-nominated actress who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Hartt School, received the 2010 Hartt Alumni Award.

Note to Editors: Audio clips, video clips and photos from the University of Hartford Commencement ceremony are available at Commencement