About 180 graduating students are expected to receive degrees at the University of Hartford’s Fall Commencement ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 7, starting at 2:30 p.m., in the Lincoln Theater on the University campus. Students and their guests will hear remarks from Dr. Richard Fichman, a pioneer of LASIK eye surgery and a leader in the effort to revitalize the Upper Albany Avenue section of Hartford. Fichman will be presented with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the ceremony.
In addition, attorney Thomas J. Groark Jr. who served as chair of the University of Hartford’s Board of Regents for five years, through 2013, and who has been an active civic leader in state and local government, will be presented with a Doctor of Laws degree at this Commencement.
University President Walter Harrison will preside over the ceremony at which approximately 95 students will cross the stage to be recognized for earning their undergraduate degrees and another 85 will be honored for earning graduate degrees.
The University's Fall Commencement ceremony was introduced in 1996 to provide a formal ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students who complete their degree requirements in September or January and cannot attend the University's traditional Commencement Weekend ceremonies in May.
Fichman, whose family has roots in the Upper Albany neighborhood, has been active in several community organizations since opening one of his Fichman Eye Center offices in the Upper Albany area in 2012. He has pushed for a state-run streetscape improvement project and a façade program to clean up some of the buildings in the struggling neighborhood as chairman of the board of directors for Upper Albany Main Street and chairman of Upper Albany Development, Inc.
For Upper Albany youth, Fichman began a scholarship program for students to attend the University of Hartford. He has mentored students who have shadowed him through the University’s microbusiness incubator program.
Fichman was honored as the 2014 Community Involvement Champion by Metro Hartford Alliance and the Hartford Business Journal. He was also named Connecticut Business Person of the Year for 2013 by the Connecticut Main Street Society.
As an ophthalmologist, Fichman was one of the first to eliminate sutures in cataract surgery, rather introducing topical anesthesia, which allowed cataract surgery to be done with eye drops. More than an estimated 100 million surgeries have been performed worldwide using his discovery. He was the first to perform LASIK surgery in the state. Prior to opening his own business, Fichman was an associate professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and chief of ophthalmology at Woodhull Medical Center in New York City. He was also appointed chief of ophthalmology at the Newington Veterans Hospital. A graduate of Central Connecticut State University, Fichman received his medical degree from Chicago Medical College at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.
Thomas Groark, a life regent of the University of Hartford, has always believed in the University and has worked hard to raise its visibility and make it a better place. He has a reputation in the field for being a true gentleman with unwavering ethics.
A former partner at Day Pitney LLP in Hartford, specializing in general litigation, insurance coverage, and securities, Groark was widely recognized for his skill. He was chosen for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America and was frequently rated as a Connecticut Super Lawyer for providing outstanding service.
Groark’s career began in 1965 when he became a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. He joined the Day Berry & Howard law firm a year later.
His service to state and local government has included an appointment by former Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell to chair the Governor’s Commission on Judicial Reform. He has also chaired the boards of the Hartford Stage and the Metro Hartford Chamber of Commerce.
After graduating from Holy Cross College, Groark earned his law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. While a student at UConn Law, he met his wife, former Connecticut Lt. Gov. Eunice Groark.