VOLUME 21 #2

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Student in graduation caps at spring commencement
Photo by Doug Baker

New graduates given a celebratory send-off

ON THE GREEN | On a morning marked by wispy clouds in a blue sky, more than 21,000 people—graduates and their families and friends—braved strong wind gusts to celebrate the University’s 164th Commencement, held May 25 at Delaware Stadium.

Paul Farmer at UD Spring Commencement
Paul Farmer

Global humanitarian Dr. Paul Farmer told the 3,600 graduating members of the Class of 2013 that empathy can work with reason to alleviate human suffering at home and in some of the world’s poorest countries. The founding director of Partners in Health, Farmer has helped to establish clinics in a dozen countries serving the world’s poorest people.

He noted that working in places like Haiti and Rwanda led him to the realization that the social and cultural singularity of each time and place share similarities in terms of the patients and their needs.

“Even the aspirations of our patients —to feel better, to be cured, to be heard, for their family members and getting back to work or returning to school —they are all strikingly the same,” Farmer said. “Too many of these aspirations are dashed, not only by serious illness, but by poverty.”

While empathy is sometimes seen as an unstable emotion, like pity or compassion, he said, the world and tomorrow’s leaders can transform these emotions into something more enduring.

“Can a spark of empathy once ignited, however briefly, lead to reasoned discussions and the compassionate qualities that might transform our world, including the precincts that we live in?” Farmer asked. “I think I can answer that with an emphatic yes.”

In welcoming the audience to Commencement, President Patrick Harker lauded the graduates for a rather special quality of character displayed in meeting both everyday and extraordinary challenges in and out of the classroom—grit.

“Grit is unyielding courage in the face of hardship and firmness of mind or spirit,” Harker said. “While being gifted might get you the football, being gritty is what gets you—and it—into the end zone.”

Also at the ceremony, three distinguished individuals were recognized with honorary degrees, the highest honor bestowed by the University. Farmer was presented the doctor of science degree; Charles F. Hummel, a 1955 UD alumnus and longtime curator at Winterthur Museum, was presented the doctor of fine arts degree; and Chongshi Zhu, president of China’s Xiamen University, which has several partnerships with UD, was presented the doctor of laws degree.

The Class of 2013 presented its class gift during Commencement ceremonies.

More than 1,070 seniors, or about 29 percent of the class, contributed to the $16,000-plus total, the largest number of participants of any senior class in UD history.

Commencement opened, as always, with a procession featuring alumni from the 1950s through the 2010s representing all UD alumni around the world, a group that now numbers more than 160,000 in 75 countries.

Article by Jerry Rhodes, AS04

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