The covered but open-air theater of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts provided the backdrop for the approximately 500 USciences graduates of the class of 2012 who assembled there on May 23 in front of family, friends, and USciences faculty. Dressed form head to toe in their caps and gowns and decorative hoods, bachelor's, master’s, PharmD and other doctoral students eagerly awaited the chance to turn their tassels from right to left at the conclusion of the University’s 191st commencement convocation.
Before doing so, commencement attendees would hear from Interim University President Marvin Samson, and honorary degree recipients Dr. Henri R. Manasse, Jr., and Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford, Jr. Later, the recipient of the Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching, Dr. Lia Vas, associate professor of mathematics, spoke about her honor. While additional remarks were provided from Melissa E. Rotz PharmD’12, whose accomplishments in the classroom earned her the honor of class valedictorian following a highly successful career as a member of the women’s basketball team.
The familiar sounds of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” led a lively processional, that was followed by USciences’ Lauren Kattner PharmD’12 and Jincy Varughese DPT’12 who flooded the auditorium with their a cappella duet of the National Anthem.
“Let’s take a moment to truly appreciate what you have achieved so far,” President Samson said in his opening address. “To earn a degree at a University that prides itself on its rigorous academic programs is a great accomplishment. For 191 years, USciences has been a ‘proving ground’ for students who are dedicated to contributing to society as scientists and healthcare professionals.”
His Philadelphian roots and distinction as the first African American to fly into space, mark only two of the countless reasons why Dr. Bluford, president of The Aerospace Technology Group and a retired USAF colonel, was identified as a recipient of an honorary USciences degree. Logging over 600 hours on four space shuttle missions as well as induction into the International Space Hall of Fame and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Dr. Bluford imparted meaningful advice to USciences’ graduates, offering a checklist for beginning a new career.
“First, chase your dreams [and] realize if you can dream it, you can achieve,” he said, then added, “Always have a plan [because] those who have no plans are those who plan to fail…Never lose your sense of wonder [because] curiosity is the sparkplug of exploration and creativity; always be inquisitive. Finally, take time to appreciate others.”
Dr. Manasse, the former executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHPA) who is now an emeritus in both positions, reminded commencement attendees of the many successes of the USciences community. From its alumni to its deans and faculty members, Dr. Manasse showed his immense respect and appreciation for the University upon the conferring of his honorary degree. Having served ASHP as its vice president and CEO for 15 years, taught and led at prominent universities, and received numerous honors and awards, his compliment is not to be overlooked.
“I also had the opportunity to study and write about the great debates in the late 1800’s as to whether pharmacy education should become a formal university-based program in which your University played a critical part,” he shared. “I am equally humbled by this recognition…I stand on the shoulders of giants.”
After the conferring of degrees, the calling of graduates’ names, and the reciting of the pharmacist’s and healthcare professional’s oaths, closing moments brought Rotz to the podium who, in her valedictory address, challenged her classmates to ask themselves how they wanted to define success.
“My hope is that every single one of us can say that a life has breathed easier because we have lived,” she remarked. Her humble speculation on the concept of success was inspired by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Concluding words from the president and the recessional music delivered a rather suitable finish for another successful commencement convocation at USciences.