U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) urged the nearly 1,100 undergraduate members of the University of Hartford’s Class of 2012 to take up the challenges that his generation has so far been unable to solve. While the students and their families, about 7,500 in total, sat under beautiful blue skies on Sunday, May 20, Blumenthal reminded them of the dark days that the world faces and that they can help address.
“There are many challenges ahead,” Blumenthal said, “how to develop alternative sources of energy so we can save the nation and save the planet; how to provide better health care and, particularly, to prevent the costly diseases that are within our control to stop; and how to provide skills and training so that we can match people with the jobs that exist and with the jobs that we will create in the future. I don’t doubt that my generation will leave a lot of unfinished business for you graduates and others,” he admitted, “but I also have no doubt that you will live up to this challenge, you will fulfill that compact, you will serve and give back.”
This year marked the first time that the University of Hartford has split its Commencement ceremony, with Sunday’s event for students receiving their bachelor’s and associate’s degrees. A separate ceremony was held on Saturday (May 19) for students who had earned their master’s and doctoral degrees.
Blumenthal, who was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University, praised the University and its students and alumni for their ongoing commitment to serving the community. “Citizenship means more just than the title, more than just physically being here,” he said. “It means emotionally committing with the passion and perseverance that is demonstrated day-in and day-out by many in this audience. Everybody knows there is no such thing as a self-made man, we all stand on the shoulders of others. We all need a hand from time to time. That sense of community, which I can feel in this group right now, is one that makes America great.”
In his charge to Class of 2012, graduating student Om Ramrakhiani said, “As we prepare to step out into the world, I echo the senator’s words, we promise to make a difference. Every one of us has somehow, in some way, contributed to someone else’s success and it won’t stop here. As we step out of this University and enter the world as graduates, we shall have the University motto ‘for humanity’ etched our hearts.”
Ramrakhiani, who is a native of Mumbai, India, graduated from the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial studies.
Also receiving honorary degrees at Sunday’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony in addition to Blumenthal were Joseph Marfuggi, president and chief executive officer of Riverfront Recapture in Hartford, Conn., 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. Click here to see the bios of all the honorary degree recipients.
The accomplishments of two exceptional members of the Class of 2012 were recognized. Kevin Sliwoski, a music major at The Hartt School with a concentration in jazz trombone, is the first graduate in University history to receive both the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize and the John G. Martin Scholarship. The Belle K. Ribicoff Prize is awarded for academic excellence, and the John G. Martin Scholarship provides recipients with the extraordinary opportunity to study for two years at the University of Oxford’s Hertford College in England.
Brittany Wallace, who is graduated with a double major in politics and government and English, was presented with the John G. Lee Medal. The medal is given annually to a graduating senior from Greater Hartford who has excelled academically and demonstrated a deep commitment to the community.
Outstanding University of Hartford alumni also were recognized on Sunday. Elizabeth Park, a successful business leader in the fragrance and beauty industry for 25 years, was presented with the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Park currently serves as executive vice president, North America marketing, for the Elizabeth Arden Corporation, one of the world’s leading makers of perfumes and cosmetics. Dancer Eran Bugge '05, was honored during The Hartt School’s diploma presentation ceremony which was held in Lincoln Theater following the main ceremony. Bugge, a member of the internationally renowned Paul Taylor Dance Company, received the 2012 Hartt Alumni Award.
The achievements of five faculty members also were recognized. Ken Steen, professor of music theory and composition in The Hartt School, is this year’s recipient of the Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching. Mahmoud Wahab, professor of finance in the Barney School of Business, is the recipient of the James E. and Frances W. Bent Award for Scholarly and/or Artistic Creativity. Katherine Black, professor and co-chair of the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Award for Sustained Service to the University. Maria Esposito Frank, professor of Italian Studies and chair of the Modern Languages and Cultures Department, A&S, was presented with the Donald W. Davis All-University Curriculum Award. And the recipient of the Belle K. Ribicoff Junior Faculty Prize was Joyce Ashuntantang, assistant professor of English in Hillyer College.