“I invite you to open your eyes, open your ears and open your heart by giving voice to those less fortunate than yourself. You will not be sorry,” was the direction that Caryl M. Stern urged University of Hartford undergraduates to take as they leave campus and go out into the world. Stern, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, was the keynote speaker at the University’s undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 17. She told the more than 1,050 students receiving their bachelor’s and associate’s degrees that the University has armed them with tools to act and prepared them to be future leaders.
“When I care, when I act, when I give, my life is at its richest,” Stern said. “This University understands that mission. Committed to diversity and the growth of ideas, committed to giving back, this is an institution whose students choose community service trips over traditional spring breaks, an institution that raises money for relief efforts in Haiti, and a community that comes together for a Day of Service,” said Stern, who was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the ceremony.
Since joining the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in 2006, Stern has spearheaded the organization’s efforts to aid children affected by disasters, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 East Africa drought, and the 2014 Ebola crisis. The U.S. Fund also administers the long-running “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” campaign, which has raised more than $170 million to support UNICEF's work, and the “UNICEF Tap Project,” which provides children around the world with access to safe, clean water.
University of Hartford President Walter Harrison echoed Stern’s theme in his remarks to the Class of 2015. “Today we celebrate your academic, artistic, and intellectual accomplishments, but I am convinced that during your time here—from your friends and fellow classmates, from the University’s staff, and most of all from our talented and wise faculty—you have learned some of these lessons of the human heart, that will last you a lifetime. I know these character-building moments help define a University of Hartford education. Most-importantly, they are just a beginning, an invitation to live a life of purpose; a life spent serving your fellow human-beings.
“I am so proud of you, members of the class of 2015! I can’t wait to watch all of the good you will do with your lives,” Harrison said.
Graduating student Ariella Torv, of Westport, Conn., a communication major, also spoke about positive actions she expects her classmates to pursue in her Charge to the Graduating Class of 2015. “We all have something unique about us, a key characteristic that truly represents us as individuals, a defining trait that will ultimately set us apart and lead us to our goals. I encourage you to find that deep within yourselves,” she said. “Celebrate it and use that courage on your next journey to make the world a better place.”
Sunday’s undergraduate Commencement Ceremony included presentations to two extraordinary graduating students: Anna Pan, of Burlington, Conn., a double major in chemistry-biology and accounting with a double minor in mathematics and actuarial science, received the John G. Lee Medal, which is presented to a graduating senior from Greater Hartford who has excelled academically while demonstrating a deep commitment to the community; and Jeremy Sickles of Mechanicsburg, Penn., a music theatre major in the University of Hartford’s Hartt School, received the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize, which is awarded for academic excellence.
Also honored during the ceremony were faculty members Roger Desmond, professor of communication in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), who was presented with the Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching; Nat Reeves, associate professor of music (jazz) in The Hartt School, who received the James E. and Frances W. Bent Award for Scholarly and/or Artistic Creativity; Joan Pedro, associate professor of education in the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions (ENHP), who received the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Award for Sustained Service to the University; Nicholas Ealy, associate professor of English and modern languages in A&S who was presented the Donald W. Davis All-University Curriculum Award; and Adam Goodworth, assistant professor of physical therapy in ENHP, who received the Belle K. Ribicoff Junior Faculty Prize.
Two University staff members who also are alumni received the University Medal for Distinguished Service. Senior Advisor for External Relations John J. Carson ’65 and Associate Vice President and Treasurer Thomas J. Perra ’74, M’82 have a combined total of more than six decades of service to the University.
The University’s 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Leonard Epps ’90, principal of the Journalism & Media Academy Magnet School in Hartford, Conn. Fifteen members of the Class of 1965 attended the ceremony and were honored as Golden Hawks in recognition of their 50th reunion.
Following the main ceremony held on the University’s Gengras Lawn, graduates and their friends and families dispersed to eight sites across campus for diploma ceremonies. During these ceremonies, the 2015 Hartt School Alumni Award was presented to Philip Boykin ’95, a Tony Award-nominated performer, teacher, and recording artist and the Distinguished Alumnus of Hillyer College award was presented to David Pritikin ’94, an Emmy Award-winning co-executive producer of The Deadliest Catch and numerous other reality television shows.