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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Commencement 2011

It is important to be inspired, and to inspire others with your success because “after today you are a part of the history of this prestigious university,” Freeman A. Hrabowski III told University of Mississippi graduates Saturday morning in the Grove.


“It was my mom, a maid of a wealthy family, who inspired me to dream of possibilities,” said Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and frequently lauded as one of the nation’s most successful college presidents and a pioneer in minority education. “Through books, she was transformed and she made it her goal to inspire me and always remind me to push myself and be pushed by others to become the best we can be.

“Becoming the best ‘you’ began once you enrolled as a freshman at this wonderful institution. You should take time and reflect on who pushed you to this moment. Reflect on who made a difference in your life. Think about how you’ve grown and changed, and who contributed most to your development because years from now, you will want to remember this story and tell somebody how you feel at this moment.”

This university’s 158th commencement included 2,430 spring candidates for degrees, along with 847 August candidates. Neither the 57-degree chill nor the threat of rain could dampen the excitement of several thousand graduates and family members gathered to observe the speeches and academic pageantry.

One grandmother, wrapped in a red-and-blue Ole Miss blanket, said she wouldn’t miss today’s festivities for the world. Pat Mertz of Metairie, La., traveled through yesterday’s thunderstorms to watch her grandson, Cameron Himel, graduate magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Himel, a native of Madison, is the son of Eddie and Judy Himel, who joined Mertz in the Grove.

Despite the weather, Chancellor Dan Jones described the day as “one to be enjoyed and remembered by all of us.” Jones added that moments like this are “meant to be shared with loved ones have who encouraged and supported you through the years.”

Jones’ sentiment was later echoed by Hrabowski, who exclaimed that he has never seen “a more beautifully ascetically pleasing atmosphere as the Grove.” He then invited the audience to give the Grove a round of applause.

While looking over the crowd of smiling graduates and prideful parents, Hrabowski observed that perhaps one reason Mississippi produces so many notable writers is that “we Southerners know how to weave a story that inspires others to dream.”

“In the spirit of Southerners, I will tell you a story,” he continued. “My grandmother always appreciated the fact that I loved mathematics. So my grandmother would make two pies ? two blueberry pies?? one for the family and one for Freeman. And my mother would be so upset with her because she didn’t want me to be fat. But, I would sit there, with my chubby cheeks, eating blueberry pie and doing my math.

“More than 40 years later, I can still taste that pie, but more importantly I can still feel the love of my mom and grandmother. Now that’s savoring the moment. I want you to savor this moment because, as you know, every moment won’t be great. Challenges will come along, but how you rise to the challenges and how you enjoy your successes will define you. And it’s those moments, the good and the bad, that you should savor.”

Following the general ceremony, the College of Liberal Arts and the Oxford campus’ eight schools held separate ceremonies to present baccalaureate, master’s, doctor of pharmacy and law diplomas. The Meek School of Journalism and New Media, the university’s newest school, celebrated its first commencement in the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, with Dan Rather as speaker.

Recipients of doctor of philosophy degrees were honored at a hooding ceremony Friday evening in the Ford Center.

Hrabowski has been president of UMBC since 1992.?His research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance.

In 2008, he was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report, which in both 2009 and 2010 ranked UMBC the nation’s No. 1 “Up and Coming” university and among the top colleges and universities for commitment to undergraduate teaching. In 2009, TIME magazine named him one of America’s “10 Best College Presidents,” and earlier this year, he received the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence, recognized by many as the nation’s highest award among college and university presidents.

During the ceremony, Ethel Young-Minor, associate professor of English and African-American Studies and senior fellow of the Luckyday Residential College, was honored as recipient of the 2011 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award, presented annually to the campuswide outstanding teacher.

Dale Flesher, professor and associate dean of the School of Accountancy, was named recipient of the university’s fourth Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award.

The university also recognized winners of this year’s Frist Student Service Awards: Barbara Collier, director of the University Health Center, and Larry Cox, holder of the Gwenette and Jack Robertson, Jr. Chair of Insurance and professor of finance.

Watch a Sample of Commencement 2011