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U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Poet Lewis Hyde to Speak at University of Hartford Commencement Weekend

Posted 04/02/2012
Posted by David Isgur

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) and poet and cultural critic Lewis Hyde will be the keynote speakers at the University of Hartford’s Commencement Weekend, May 19-20. Blumenthal will address students at the undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20, and Hyde will address students at the graduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19.

In response to growing enrollment, the University will for the first time expand Commencement from a one-day event to two days of ceremonies. Both ceremonies will take place at 10 a.m. on the lawn in front of the Gengras Student Union building. Approximately 1,100 students will be presented with their undergraduate degrees following Sunday’s ceremony and about 400 students will receive their graduate degrees in Saturday’s ceremony.

Blumenthal and Hyde will receive honorary degrees, as will Joseph Marfuggi, president and chief executive officer of Riverfront Recapture in Hartford, Conn.; Marshall I. Goldman, a professor emeritus of economics at Wellesley College and senior scholar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University; and Ruth Ziolkowski, president of the board of directors and chief executive officer of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Blumenthal, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University during Sunday’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony, is serving his first term as a United States senator from Connecticut. He previously served five terms as Connecticut’s attorney general. During his term as attorney general he was a key player in the national fight against tobacco companies, which resulted in a $246 billion settlement for the 46 states involved. Blumenthal was also a leader of a coalition of all 50 states that won historic agreements with social networking sites to better protect children from Internet predators.

Early in his political career Blumenthal was administrative assistant to U.S. Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff, aide to former U.S. Senator Daniel P. Moynihan when Moynihan was an assistant to the president of the United States, and a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. From 1977 to 1981, he was a U.S. attorney for Connecticut. He served in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1984 to 1987, and the Connecticut State Senate from 1987 to 1990. He has also served as a volunteer attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Hyde, who will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters at Saturday’s graduate Commencement ceremony, is a poet, scholar, essayist, translator, and cultural critic whose work focuses on the public life of imagination and creativity. His 1983 book, The Gift, illuminates and defends the non-commercial portion of artistic practice. Trickster Makes This World (1998) uses a group of ancient myths to argue for the kind of disruptive intelligence all cultures need if they are to remain open to change. Hyde's most recent book, Common as Air, is a spirited defense of the vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art that we have inherited from the past that  continue to enrich our culture today.

A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde teaches during the fall semesters at Kenyon College in Ohio, where he is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing. During the rest of the year, he is a faculty associate at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Marfuggi, who will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, has devoted more than three decades to championing the project that turned a long-neglected riverfront into an attractive destination for visitors and a catalyst for the economic development of neighboring properties. Overcoming the obstacles presented by an interstate highway and a flood plain, Marfuggi and the Riverfront Recapture team raised millions in private and public money to keep the project moving forward. The award-winning public greenway and recreational space now draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the banks of the Connecticut River every year.

Goldman, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters, is an internationally recognized authority on Russian economics, politics, environmental policy, and the economics of high technology. He is well known for his study of the careers of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and is the author of more than a dozen books. Goldman served as an advisor on Russia to former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Ruth Ziolkowski, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, leads the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, which is dedicated to honoring the culture, traditions, and heritage of American Indians. A Connecticut native, Ruth Ross was a student at Hartford College for Women (which became part of the University of Hartford in 1990) and she helped Boston-sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski create the statue of Noah Webster that now stands at town hall in West Hartford. At the request of Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, Korczak Ziolkowski in 1948 began carving the legendary monument depicting Crazy Horse on horseback. Ruth Ziolkowski took over leadership of the project in 1982 after the death of Korczak Ziolkowski, whom she had married in 1950.

As head of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, Ruth Ziolkowski leads the educational and cultural progress of the project. The endeavor now includes the Indian Museum of North America; the Native American Educational and Cultural Center; the Indian University of North America; a scholarship fund that has awarded more than $1.5 million to American Indian students; and the construction of the immense Crazy Horse statue.