In his Commencement address to nearly 1,100 undergraduate students in the University of Hartford’s Class of 2014, baseball legend Joe Torre focused more on overcoming adversity than celebrating success. “Even though you go out there in your field of play and you do everything right and you give it every bit of energy and every bit of passion that you have, it may not work out. It may be a disappointment, but that’s when you check the character level and you bounce back.”
Torre, who won four World Series championships as manager of the New York Yankees, reminded the graduates about the Yankees comeback wins against the Oakland As in the 2001 playoffs and about losing to the Boston Red Sox in 2004 after being up three games to none in the American League Championship Series, saying those examples are a lot like life. “I know you’re capable and I know darn well that you’re passionate about what your field of endeavor is going to be,” he said. “But there’s going be a lot of ‘no’s’ and ‘Sorry, you didn’t make it this time.’ But never give up. Babe Ruth said, ‘It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.’ As you leave campus today, remember that.”
Torre also urged the graduates and their gathered families and friends, to focus on three things: character, integrity, and respect. “Don’t buy into that culture that emphasizes the outrageous. It makes headlines, but the next day, there’s a different headline. You guys have much more important things to do,” he said.
While introducing Torre, University of Hartford President Walter Harrison called him “an outstanding and courageous individual” for his work as a baseball player, manager, and executive and for his work against domestic abuse through the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation.
“As to your courageous spirit, imagine the courage it takes to come to Hartford, the absolute fault-line between Red Sox and Yankees fans, to receive an honorary degree,” Harrison said. Harrison then demonstrated this by asking audience members to cheer first if they were Red Sox fans and then second if they were Yankees fans. Both groups were loud and boisterous.
“Many of you know that this spring appears to be a spring of controversial Commencement speakers. Here at Hartford, however, we rise above personal allegiances to salute someone who has been a leader everywhere he has gone and has done it with style and grace. Divided as we may be about our individual baseball loyalties, we come together as a University community to salute you,” Harrison said to Torre.
In appreciation of receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University, Torre said, “I’ve been a Cardinal, I’ve been a Met, I’ve been a Brave, I’ve been a Yankee, I’ve been a Dodger. I’m now very proud to be a Hartford Hawk.”
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Also presented with honorary degrees at the ceremony were Ellen Marram, former president and chief executive officer of the Tropicana Beverage Group; and Rabbi Stanley Kessler, the founding rabbi of Beth El Temple in West Hartford. (For background information on the honorary degree recipients, go to http://www.hartford.edu/news/press-releases/2014/04/honorary_degrees.aspx).
President Harrison began the Commencement ceremony by asking for a moment of silence in honor of senior Patrick Chittenden, who died of bacterial meningitis just two weeks prior to graduation. Graduating seniors honored during the undergraduate Commencement ceremony are: Catherine Brennan, who was awarded the John G. Martin Scholarship to continue her studies at Oxford University in England; Kyle Hebert, who received the John G. Lee Medal for community service, and Nicole Kalmus, who received the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize for academic excellence. (For more details, go to http://www.hartford.edu/news/press-releases/2014/04/StudentGradWinners.aspx)
Also honored were faculty members Monica Hardesty and Glen Adsit, who were presented with the Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching, Ivana Milanovic presented with the James E. and Frances W. Bent Award for Scholarly and/or Artistic Creativity, Hisham Alnajjar presented with the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Award for Sustained Service to the University, Nels Highberg presented with the Donald W. Davis All-University Curriculum Award, and Jessica Nicklin as the Belle K. Ribicoff Junior Faculty Prize. (For more details, go to http://www.hartford.edu/news/press-releases/2014/04/faculty_award_winners.aspx.)
The undergraduate Commencement ceremony also featured presentation of the Distinguished Alumni Award to Mark Lewis Boxer, global chief information officer for Cigna. Two alumni were honored during diploma presentation ceremonies that followed the main ceremony. Ed Alton '81, a prolific composer for television and film, was presented with the 2014 Hartt Alumni Award, and Rob Melick '96, '98, director of NBC’s award-winning Sunday morning news show, Meet The Press, received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Hillyer College. (For more details, go to http://www.hartford.edu/daily/announcements/2014/05/2014-05-09-2014-alumni-award-winners.aspx.)
The charge to the graduating class was given by Aven Rose ’14, a double major in rhetoric and professional writing and creative writing.
President Harrison closed the undergraduate Commencement ceremony with a charge to the Class of 2014 as well. “So University of Hartford graduates, you’ve made it. You carry with you our hopes for the future. We hope you’ll do good in this world and make the world better, and we hope you’ll have a lot of fun on the way. Thank you for enriching this campus and this University. We look forward to following your careers, and we know we’ll always see your Hall of Fame character. Congratulations!”
The University’s Graduate Commencement ceremony was held on Saturday, May 17. (For more information, go to http://www.hartford.edu/news/press-releases/2014/05/GraduateCommencement.aspx).