Grad Ceremonies Celebrate Journeys Ending — and Beginning

Dr. David E. Daniel at Spring 2012 Commencement

UT Dallas President David E. Daniel begins making his way down the aisle at the end of the commencement ceremony for graduates of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Chris Moore

Chris Moore is headed to MIT to earn a doctorate in chemistry after collecting his bachelor’s in chemistry at UT Dallas over the weekend.

In high school, Chris Moore didn’t know whether his college dreams should be focused on becoming a football player or a chemist. He considered both options, but his participation in a UT Dallas summer research program settled his internal debate.

The summer after his high school graduation, he pulled on a white coat, stepped up to the lab bench and conducted experiments as part of The Anson L. Clark Summer Research Program.  

After that experience, Moore’s path was clear.

As the first in his family to earn a college degree, Moore graduated during one of six commencement ceremonies held May 18-19 at The University of Texas at Dallas. Next, he is headed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to pursue a PhD in chemistry.

Proud family and friends gathered to honor 1,198 graduate and PhD candidates and 1,437 undergraduates as they collected their diplomas from UT Dallas President David E. Daniel. The graduates represent a 22 percent increase from last spring.

Some family members traveled thousands of miles for the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. Among them was G. Panneer Selvam, who flew from Chennai, India, to see his son, Anjan, walk across the stage.

“I’m so proud of him,” Mr. Selvam said of Anjan. “This is an exciting day.”

Anjan earned his master’s degree in biomedical engineering, a field he loves but that also has deeper personal meaning. Shortly after his birth, Anjan’s mother received a kidney transplant. Not long before he applied to UT Dallas, however, she was diagnosed with renal failure.

UT Dallas graduate and his father

G. Panneer Selvam traveled from Chennai, India, to see his son, Anjan, graduate from UT Dallas with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.

“Her final wish was that I come to the United States and finish my studies,” Anjan said. “I wanted to do biomedical engineering because I want to help others who are sick by creating diagnostic tools.”

She passed away two years ago, but the profound effect her life had on Anjan continues to inspire him, he said.

He plans to pursue his doctoral degree at UT Dallas in Dr. Shalini Prasad’s lab. After that, he aims to work in either industry or academia, where he can research life-saving biomedical microdevices.

“It’s always important to love what you do,” Anjan said. “It is only through this passion for our work that we can bring about innovation and change.”

The six spring commencement ceremonies were held at the University’s Activity Center. White flowers lined the stage, with a backdrop of banners from each of the University’s seven schools. A sea of black mortarboards and gold tassels filled the main floor as graduates walked into the auditorium for the first ceremony, .

UT Dallas Graduation, Spring 2012

Following all of the ceremonies, the University’s newest alumni exited the building through a receiving line of faculty and administrators who applauded their achievements.

Family and friends in the stands whistled, clapped and cheered as each graduate crossed the stage.

President Daniel told the graduates that they should be particularly proud of their achievement because the University maintains highly selective academic standards. The freshman class this year, he said, had more National Merit Scholars than the rest of the academic institutions in the UT System combined.

“Here at UT Dallas, we think that being around people who are smarter than you raises your game. It makes you better at what you do.” Daniel said. “It causes you to think harder, and to think in directions you might not have explored if you hadn’t been exposed to the challenge of competing and working with other exceptionally bright people.”

Aaron Kotamarti, 17-year-old engineering graduate

Aaron Kotamarti graduated with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering at age 17.

He pointed out Aaron Kotamarti, a 17-year-old graduate of the electrical engineering program, as an example of the caliber of brainpower at the University and asked him to stand and be recognized.

Student speakers selected for each of the ceremonies also addressed their peers, offering words of encouragement and reflections on their own UT Dallas experiences.

Molly McGregor, a mechanical engineering major, congratulated her fellow students.

“We all know … the real value in a diploma is the knowledge you have gained through the process,” she said. “This knowledge is priceless.”

She interjected some levity by joking about their empty diploma folders.

“Your diploma will arrive in six to eight weeks, once they make sure you didn’t bomb your finals,” she said.  


McGregor, who graduated suma cum laude, earned an undergraduate research award and founded the UT Dallas chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Martin Huynh, a biochemistry major, urged his fellow graduates to make a positive impact on those around them.

“We leave having transformed this campus as much as it has transformed us. We leave prepared to change the greater world with even greater vigor and creativity,” Huynh said

An overflow crowd turned out for the undergraduate ceremony for the Naveen Jindal School of Management.

“It’ll probably really hit me when it’s over,” said Aubrey Lyn Bratcher, minutes before graduating with an accounting degree. “My roommate and I are moving out, and we’re going to cry our eyes out.”

About 48 students were part of the first Executive MBA class to graduate from the school, which was recently renamed for alumnus  and donor Naveen Jindal, who is a member of India’s Parliament.

Executive MBA graduate David Darling, who is the senior director of corporate infrastructure services at Fujitsu Network Communications Inc., said he was honored to be a member of the program’s first graduating class.

“I attended the name change ceremony at UT Dallas last fall but did not realize the significance of the event until my class visited Naveen at his home and business in Delhi, India, in April,” he said.

Regent Brenda Pejovich with students from UT Dallas

Brenda Pejovich, a member of the UT System Board of Regents, was a guest at the graduation ceremonies.

“From first-hand experience, he is an open, kind, and gracious person who is also extremely generous. He is exactly the type of person that a business school should be named after.”

Following all of the  ceremonies, the University’s newest alumni exited the building through a receiving line of faculty and administrators who applauded their achievements and posed for photos with students. Under sunny skies and mild May weather, they met up with well wishers on the mall for photos and refreshments.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s wonderful. This is a big blessing from God,” said Wanda Allen of Duncanville, of her son Quincy Obioha’s graduation with an electrical engineering degree. Joining the celebration were her husband, Stan, and two of Obioha’s uncles, an aunt and a cousin.

Obioha credited his family’s support with seeing him through. “This is pretty much the reason I’m here,” he said. “It’s been a long road, and they’ve made some big sacrifices for me to get this far.”

Allison Sullivan

Above: Allison K. Sullivan graduated with a Bachelor of Science in software engineering.

Below: Mohammad Yakin, 5, earned his kindergarten diploma the same day that his uncle, Ahmed Sadeque, earned his PhD in electrical engineering.

Boy and his uncle


Arun Thotta Suresh

Arun Thotta Suresh celebrates earning his master’s degree in computer science from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].