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Commencement Speakers are a Diverse Group
This year’s honorary degree recipients are:
- Michael Bangser, who is stepping down this fall after more than 15 years as president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving;
- Richard Booth, CEO of Hartford Steam Boiler Insurance Co. and chairman of the MetroHartford Alliance;
- Gregory Rabassa, an award-winning translator and author;
- Willie Anthony Waters, general and artistic director of Connecticut Opera.
Bangser has had a profound impact on the lives of Greater Hartford residents. Under his leadership, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s assets have more than quadrupled, rising from $140 million when he arrived in 1989 to $600 million today, making it the 12th-largest community foundation in the country. In 2004 alone, the foundation awarded $25.1 million in grants and related program expenditures, primarily in the areas of arts and culture, children and youth, education, health, housing and economic development, and social services.
Bangser has overseen the launch of a number of new initiatives by the foundation. They include the Brighter Futures Initiative, which is dedicated to helping increase school readiness for Hartford’s children, and the Nonprofit Support Program, which offers training programs, financial support and networking opportunities aimed at helping local nonprofit organizations build their capacity and increase effectiveness.
Booth, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting and finance from the University of Hartford, has been chairman, president and chief executive officer of Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, one of the world’s leading specialty insurers since 2000.
In his role as chairman of the MetroHartford Alliance’s board of directors, Booth is committed to developing the region’s existing businesses, while securing new opportunities for the region’s workforce.
Rabassa has translated some 40 books from Spanish and Portuguese, and he is the recipient of the National Book Award for Translation, the PEN Translation Prize, the Gulbenkian Translation Prize, the Wheatland Prize for Translation, and the Gode Medal of the American Translators Association. He has also been honored with the Gabriela Mistral Medal from Chile, the Order of San Carlos from Colombia, and Dartmouth College's Presidential Medal for Excellence.
Rabassa, who is Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literature at Queens College in New York, recently published his memoir, If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents (New Directions, 2005). He has been presented with the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Ivan Sandrof Award of the National Circle of Literary Critics, and the John Steinbeck Award.
Waters, who was appointed general and artistic director of Connecticut Opera in July 1999, has conducted numerous noteworthy productions and events for the company, including the arena production of Aida in 1991, Othello in 1997, Porgy and Bess in 1998, A Capitol Concert in Bushnell Park during the summer of 2000, and Denyce Graves in Concert in 2001. Waters made his debut with the opera company on March 7, 1980, with The Merry Widow. He also has a monthly program, Through the Opera Glasses, on Beethoven Radio.
Waters’ dedication to opera education is evident in The Hartt School/Connecticut Opera Partnership in Training. In this program, which is just completing its first year, Hartt students have the opportunity to participate in activities with the Connecticut Opera, which may include roles or understudying in their productions. A variety of master classes and workshops are also a feature of this collaboration.