Ceremony honors doctoral degree graduates
University of Delaware doctoral degree candidates gather in celebration at Friday's hooding ceremony.
Alan Taylor, who earned a doctorate in educational leadership, gives a celebratory wave.
Amanda Jansen, assistant professor in the School of Education, with doctoral recipient James Beyers.
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4:29 p.m., Jan. 10, 2009----The University of Delaware honored its latest doctoral degree candidates during a hooding ceremony held Friday, Jan. 9, in Clayton Hall.

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More than 300 UD students, family members, University associates and friends attended the ceremony that recognized more than 150 doctoral degree candidates from six different colleges who officially received their degrees during Commencement on Jan. 10.

As the sound of bagpipe music filled the air, University President Patrick Harker led a procession that included the deans of the colleges, University officials, the candidates and their advisers, all dressed in full academic regalia.

In welcoming the attendees, Harker congratulated the doctoral candidates on their hard work, dedication, innovation, collaboration and strength of character.

“You have made new discoveries and you have added to the body of knowledge in your chosen field,” Harker said. “You have met and overcome difficult challenges along the way, and today we celebrate the fact that you have attained your goal.”

While noting that from a student's perspective the doctoral degree process can be daunting, Harker said that nothing compares to “that first moment of discovery, the very instant of that success, the 'aha' moment.”

“You might wonder, was this worth it? Does it matter?” Harker said. “I am here to tell you it was worth it and it does matter. All great knowledge is built on the work of many, many people. You are now part of that continuum.”

Harker also lauded the efforts of the University of Delaware as a premier research and graduate institution and its contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the service of humanity.

“As our world becomes increasingly complex and continues to move toward a knowledge-based economy, the need for rigorous research and graduate education is greater than ever before,” Harker said. “It is through graduate education that we will develop the intellectual leaders who will be able to address the challenges of tomorrow.”

To address such issues, Harker said that the strategic objectives outlined in the University's Path to ProminenceTM will help UD to achieve new levels of excellence, intensity and breadth of research and graduate education.

“The importance of advanced knowledge, and its contribution to where we are heading as a University, as a community, as a state and as a nation, cannot be overestimated,” Harker said. “Those universities, states and nations that have foresight and invest wisely in research and development-in creating new knowledge-will prosper. Those that do not will fall behind.”

In recognizing the achievements of the doctoral candidates and the support of their families and friends, Harker noted that with such success comes the responsibility to use such knowledge for community improvement and furthering the boundaries of human understanding.

“I encourage you to always remember the moment of discovery, to keep pushing the envelope, to always ask questions. Never lose that passion,” Harker said. “And, I'd also encourage you to do one more thing, be sure to pass your joy of knowledge along to others.”

Provost Dan Rich, who presented the candidates to be hooded by their advisers, congratulated the candidates on achieving the highest level of academic attainment.

“By your success, you honor not only yourself, but the entire University of Delaware community, of which you are a part,” Rich said. “Congratulations on your success, but also, thank you for your success.”

Rich also congratulated the advisers who assisted the doctoral degree candidates and the families and friends for their support, and reminded the graduates of the responsibilities attendant on the successful completion of their doctoral degree requirements.

“Having achieved the highest level of educational attainment, you have an obligation to use your time, talent and knowledge to improve the well-being of others and the communities in which you live and work,” Rich said. “As scholars, you are obligated to further expand the boundaries of human understanding. Your responsibility is to continue to fulfill the highest levels of scholarship, whether that is expressed through research, teaching or professional practice.”

Those receiving doctoral degrees will be joining the leadership of the academy of ideas at one of the most exciting and dynamic times in intellectual history, with the convergence and reconfiguration of established fields and disciplines, Rich said.

“What you do in the decades ahead will help to shape these changes and define them, and some of you will lead these dramatic changes,” Rich said. “What you do may truly transform our understanding of ourselves as human beings and of the physical, material, cultural and social environments in which we live.”

In closing, Rich urged those graduating not to forget their ties to the University of Delaware, and to maintain a sense of optimism in the career and life challenge that lie ahead.

“Winston Churchill was right when he said, 'A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,'” Rich said. “You are now among the best educated individuals on Earth, and if you are not optimistic about the future and if you do not act on that optimism, then there is little hope for the rest of the 6.5 billion persons on this planet.”

A long time coming

Many of the doctoral degree candidates attending the hooding ceremony said that while their educational journey was long and often difficult, the effort was worth it.

Alan Taylor, who received his doctorate in educational leadership, said that arriving at the hooding ceremony and graduation represents many one-hour-plus commutes from his home in Medford Lakes, N.J.

“On the way here today I reflected on all the seasons that I drove down to Newark, from the falling leaves of autumn, to the bleak days of winter and the sunny days of summer,” Taylor said. "When I began this educational journey, I didn't know where it would take me, but it has taken me way beyond my original expectations.”

Fred Hofstetter, professor in the UD School of Education, was Taylor's adviser.

James Beyers, who earned his doctorate in math education, with adviser Amanda Jansen, assistant professor in the UD School of Education, said that, although “my graduate career has been mildly extended, it was all worth it. I am very proud to be a part of UD and I hope to maintain my ties to the University.”

Jansen said she is very proud of Beyers' accomplishments.

“This is my first opportunity as a faculty member to participate in a student's doctoral process, and it was very exciting,” Jansen said. “In the end, a student has to be motivated, and James put in a lot of hard work to get here.”

Katie Morrison, of West Chester, Pa., who earned her doctorate in biomechanics with adviser Thomas Kaminski, associate professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences, said that she was totally relieved to have the doctoral process behind her.

“As I was driving here today, I was thinking of the process that began over four years ago,” Morrison said. “Because this was such a difficult process, I feel that it represents a significant accomplishment.”

Megan Wenner, of Mt Laurel, N.J., who earned a doctorate in biomechanics, advised by William Farquhar, associate professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences, said she could not begin to say how she really felt.

“I just completed my defense, and it really hasn't sunk in,” Wenner said. “Completing my studies and having my defense approved is really special to me. I really felt fortunate working with my adviser. He has been a real part of my being here today.”

The hooding ceremony, which concluded with the singing of the University alma mater by Andrea Malkowski, was followed by a reception.

For a complete list of the doctoral degree candidates, download a PDF of the ceremony program by clicking here.

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Duane Perry