Under beautiful blue skies and a tent with spires that conjured up images of “Camelot,” nearly 400 students received their master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Hartford on Saturday, May 19. An estimated crowd of 3,000 attended the ceremony which was held for the first time ever under a large 12-peaked white tent with red University of Hartford flags flying from each peak. It was the first of two ceremonies scheduled on the University’s first-ever Commencement Weekend rather than single day Commencement. Nearly 1,100 students are scheduled to receive their bachelor’s and associate’s degrees on Sunday, May 20.
Commencement speaker Lewis Hyde, a noted poet and cultural critic whose work focuses on the public life of imagination and creativity, told the graduates, “Today we celebrate achievements that are both individual and collective.” Hyde said the graduates’ educational achievements are to be shared by the individuals who were receiving their degrees and by all the people who supported them and helped make them who they are today.
Hyde’s charge to the graduates was “Going forward remember that the true path to individual greatness passes through individual self. To make your mark in the world, begin by making your intelligence, your imagination, your spirit hospitable to all that is not you. Join in, and nurture what Benjamin Franklin and his contemporaries believed in, a republic of letters, the civic republic. Obligate yourself to that and you will leave this world a better place.”
University President Walter Harrison spoke about the importance of holding a separate ceremony to honor University students receiving advanced degrees. “Graduate education is different fundamentally than undergraduate education,” said President Harrison, “It involves the mastery of a discipline, and whether your aim in mastering that discipline is professional development or individual betterment, your success in graduate school marks, first and foremost, a significant intellectual achievement. ”
Harrison noted that the ceremony was a chance to “shine a brighter light” on the University’s growth in graduate education. The University of Hartford currently offers nine doctoral degrees, 45 master’s degrees, as well as several sixth-year certificates and diploma programs.
Prior to his remarks, Hyde was presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters. A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde’s 1983 book, The Gift, defended the non-commercial portion of artistic practice. Hyde's most recent book, Common as Air, is a spirited defense of the vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art inherited from the past that continue to enrich today’s culture.
An honorary Doctor of Letters also was presented to Marshall I. Goldman, a professor emeritus of economics at Wellesley College and senior scholar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. Goldman is an internationally recognized authority on Russian economics, politics, environmental policy, and the economics of high technology. He is well known for his study of the careers of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and is the author of more than a dozen books. Goldman served as an advisor on Russia to former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.