Fall Commencement Celebrates 1,729 Graduates
Speakers Reflect on University's History and Imagine a Bright Future Ahead
Seas of students gathered with family, friends and UT Dallas administrators for the University’s five commencement exercises Dec. 18 and 19 in the Activity Center.
Fall 2009 Commencement
With the new graduates, the University has conferred a total of 70,666 degrees in its 40-year history as a public institution and member of the University of Texas System.
In keeping with University tradition, students addressed the assembly of graduates, faculty and well-wishers. The five student graduation speakers included:
- Joseph Florer – with a bachelor of arts in art and performance, School of Arts and Humanities.
- Maria Islam – bachelor of science in biochemistry, School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics.
- Arie Litovsky – bachelor of science in computer science, Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
- Ernest Lowery – master of business administration, School of Management.
- Scott Rodgers – bachelor of science in business administration, School of Management.
Rodgers, undergraduate speaker for the School of Management, shared how hard work and determination had led to his favorite UT Dallas memory: playing with the champion Comet basketball team.
“We were never the fastest, tallest or most-athletic team in our conference, but we found success because, as far as we were concerned, we were the hardest-working team in the conference,” Rodgers said. “We had a collection of guys that brought extreme focus and energy to each practice. We had teammates who were willing to sacrifice individual merit for the good of the team, and in short, our team put in enough work and maintained the right attitude for us to deserve to be successful.
“And we were successful - all the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III National Championships.”
Computer science major Arie Litovsky noted the physical changes happening around campus, likening them to the inner transformation of students during their academic careers.
“As our campus has changed over the last few years, so have we,” he said. “These changes are often difficult, and may lead us to question who we are and what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Luckily, college gives us more time to figure this out and find our new selves. … These experiences continually shape who we are, until a final product is formed.”
Ernest Lowery noted the advanced thinking behind UT Dallas, as evidenced on the University’s interactive timeline.
“One of the entries was from 1971; it’s a draft of a future campus development plan,” he said. “Within it is a drawing of a monorail system, similar to that of the DART rail, an idea which was probably not even a thought to most in 1971.
“Above the picture read a caption, ‘Ahead of Their Time.’ When I read that title, it immediately struck a chord within me, and I thought, ‘What an accurate phrase to describe UT Dallas.’ ”
Joseph Florer also spoke about the future – the future of the assembled graduates and how their unique complementary skills can work together for a better world.
“Though we have our differences, we can all do well to remember that the future is a vast unknown, and there is a place there for everyone,” he said. “We likely even need each other with our varying views and perspectives. We fought through college and prevailed, and as we leave for a world so full of problems in need of solutions, I hope and pray that each and every one of us attempts to change the world in our own unique way.”
Maria Islam exhorted fellow graduates to stay connected to their alma mater, which has been changed in recent years by student-driven initiatives such as the Comet Cruiser transit service, the Spirit Rock limestone garden on the mall and the Web-based UTD TV.
“The changes around campus to which you have contributed are the most tangible reminders of what you have been able to accomplish, and how you have transformed the campus for those to come,” she said. “I hope you will all continue your relationship with UT Dallas. Revisit the campus; come see the fruits of your labor.”
UT Dallas President David E. Daniel also addressed the graduates and their supporters, reminding them of the value of their accomplishments.
“At the end of each semester, we don this ceremonial garb, bring out the mace and join together in this ritual to confer on those assembled a document that attests to the celebration of something we can’t see or touch, but that is, nonetheless, one of the most tangible and valuable assets you possess — your education,” said Daniel. “Whatever the future may bring, education is one thing no one can take from you. What you learned here — in and out of class, from faculty and from friends — is yours to take with you wherever you go.”
The School of Management conferred the largest number of degrees, totaling 710. Next was the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science with 308; the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences with 179; the School of Arts and Humanities with 145; the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences with 133; the School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics with 128; and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies with 126.
School of Management degrees were awarded Friday. Ceremonies for the remaining schools were Saturday.