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|For Immediate Release
May 12, 2001
John Hope Franklin Inspires Graduates at UNC Asheville Commencement
Famed historian John Hope Franklin captured the hearts of some 4,000 people gathered Saturday for Commencement on the University of North Carolina Asheville Quadrangle. In his Commencement address, Franklin spoke of the value and importance of education to all people, and challenged the 509 graduating students to find time in their lives help improve the nation's educational system.
Franklin, who at 86 is the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, is one of the nation's strongest advocates for educational opportunity. Among his many roles, he worked with Thurgood Marshall on Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, the 1954 Supreme Court case that began the process of integration.
"This ritual of commencement is one more manifestation of our faith in the continuing importance in the entire educational enterprise. The history of higher education in North Carolina and across the nation is itself an expression of faith in the value of education and, indeed, of its importance to all peoples regardless of color or other irrelevant circumstances, " said Franklin in his address. " . . . Many of you who graduate today have had to pay dearly for your education. . . As you take stock of your educational experience, I think you will begin, from this day, to define your own role in continuing the task of improving our educational system so that your own children and their children who follow will not face the dilemmas and difficulties that this generation has experienced."
Franklin also touched on North Carolina's current budget shortfall and its implications for education funding. "Even with the bond issue that was successful when it was presented to the people of this state a few months ago, we cannot afford to sit back and relax as though we have won the ultimate victory. College facilities are still inadequate, college salaries are woefully inadequate, many classrooms are overcrowded, and equipment in our laboratories is far from being state of the art. Listen to our political leaders who feel their real value as statesmen is how eloquently and in how many ways he or she can oppose increased revenue for our educational and other social purposes."
Franklin was one of three accomplished individuals who received honorary degrees at the ceremony. Also receiving honorary doctor of humane letter degrees were Adelaide Daniels Key and Myra Janco Daniels. Key was the guiding force in the creation of the Lewis Rathburn Center, an innovative facility providing a caring and supportive residential environment in Asheville for serious illness, and inspired the creation of UNCA’s Key Center for Service Learning, which is named in her honor. Daniels, who achieved outstanding success as an advertising industry executive, led the effort that created the Naples, Fla. Philharmonic Center for the Arts and the Naples Museum of Art.
Also during the ceremony, three students received special awards. Jeannie A. Johnson, a management and economics major, received the William and Ida Friday Award for Community Service. This award is presented to the senior most outstanding in service to the community at large. Johnson has been filled many roles at UNCA, including president of Circle K, Key Center for Service Learning intern and assistant coordinator for Bulldog Day 2000: A Day of Service. She also helped establish the Team Mentoring Project, a collaboration between Asheville City Schools and the university.
Jason L. Boyles, also a management and economics major, received the A.C. Reynolds Award and the Thomas D. Reynolds Prize for Campus Service. This award, presented to the senior most outstanding in service to the campus community, was established by Mary and Martin Nesbitt Sr. in honor of A.C. Reynolds. Boyles worked in many different areas on campus, including the Women’s Basketball team, Special Academic Programs, Housing, Intramural Athletics Council and the Chancellor’s Task Force on Retention. He also volunteered off campus with the Asheville City Preschool.
Peter M.K. Huskey, a chemistry major, received the Manly Wright Award, as the senior most outstanding in scholarship. Huskey, a Goldwater Scholarship winner and a Fulbright Scholar, earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average and earned his bachelor of science degree in just three years. He was recently named to USA Today’s All-USA College Academic Third Team, which recognizes outstanding undergraduates. Huskey will pursue his graduate degree at CalTech.
In addition, Debra Van Engelen, associate professor of chemistry, received the campus Distinguished Teacher Award. Van Engelen was selected for the award by a committee of past winners based on nominations from students, faculty, staff and friends of the university. The award recognizes excellence in teaching based on letters of recommendation, course evaluation summaries and the nominee’s teaching activities and philosophy.
Occasional showers didn't dampen the spirits of students, family and friends attending the event. Some 1,500 people arrived for the 8 a.m outdoor breakfast, most carrying umbrellas that were unfurled at several points in the morning festivities.
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