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Health Center Today, May 16, 2011

Commencement 2011

By Carolyn Pennington

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Photos by John Atashian Photography

The Health Centerís commencement ceremony held May 15 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford recognized 78 graduates from the School of Medicine, 41 from the School of Dental Medicine and 26 from the Graduate School.

The commencement address guest speaker was Henry Lee, an endowed professor and founder of the Forensic Science program at the University of New Haven. Over the past several decades, Lee has assisted in the investigations of more than 8,000 criminal cases, including the O.J. Simpson case, the review of the John F. Kennedy assassination and the death of JonBenet Ramsey.

But Lee didnít discuss with the graduates who he thought killed JonBenet or if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Lee offered some simple advice on how to be successful in life. "As long as you have a plan and you are willing to work hard on it, you will have a chance to succeed."

Lee came to the United States in 1965 to further his studies. He only had $50 to his name and spoke just a few words of English. He confessed that when he was younger his goal was to be a basketball player, not a world famous forensic scientist. But when he realized he did not have the DNA of a Yao Ming, he altered his focus to forensics.

Lee told the graduates that a degree alone is not enough and that it does not guarantee success. "To be successful you have to learn the power of knowledge. For example, to be successful in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, biotech or any other profession, you must have knowledge in your chosen field. But to be the best and an expert in that field, you need to understand the importance of positive thinking. There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome if you persist and believe."

Three students were chosen by their classmates as commencement speakers. David Austin Schirmer III represented the School of Medicine; Joseph Blondin spoke on behalf of the School of Dental Medicine; and Kristina Kapinas represented the Graduate School students.

Also during the ceremony, the Health Centerís Board of Directors presented its Faculty Recognition Award to Dr. Marja Hurley, professor of medicine and director of the Office of Health Career Opportunity Programs. The award honors a faculty member for "outstanding academic and clinical accomplishments and sustained excellence of the highest order in professional endeavors."

There were three honorary degree recipients:

Philip Bailey, probably best known for his falsetto vocals with the R&B band Earth, Wind and Fire, received a Doctor of Fine Arts, Honorary Degree.

Dr. Charles J. Burstone, a founding father of the UConn School of Dental Medicine who has given 40 years of service to the university, received a Doctor of Science, Honorary Degree.

Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, considered a legendary figure in African-American history and an advocate for the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities, received a Doctor of Science, Honorary Degree.