Threatening skies didn’t cloud the high spirits of some 4,500
students, parents and friends gathered on the Quadrangle for the
University of North Carolina Asheville’s commencement ceremony Saturday
morning. Keynote speaker Frank Rhodes, one of America’s most respected
educational leaders, encouraged the 576 graduating seniors to believe that
they can transform the world.
"Some might say, 'We are the graduates of the post-9/11 era, we
are the graduates of the war in Iraq, we are the graduates who live under
the cloud of North Korea's nuclear weapons. This is a time when dreams and
heroes die. . . . What hope can we have in an age such as this?' And I
answer, 'Every hope.' "
"Today is an occasion of hope, for three reasons," Rhodes
said. "First, because with your graduation the world is reborn -- the
skills, the energy, the devotion that you will bring to our society will
make the world a new place. And second, the knowledge you will bring, the
skills you will bring, humanely and wisely applied, can move the world.
And third, because for all our frustrations and for all our failures,
humanity is capable of redemption."
Rhodes, who was president of Cornell University for 18 years, is one of
America's most respected educational leaders. A native of Great Britain
and a geologist by training, he has served as chairman of the National
Science Board, the American Council on Education, the Association of
American Universities and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Rhodes was one of four accomplished individuals who received the
honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at the ceremony. Others to
receive honorary degrees were former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice
Judge Henry Frye; Yolanda Moses, an acclaimed cultural anthropologist and
president of the American Association for Higher Education; and Hugh
Morton, environmental advocate, photographer and steward of Grandfather
Three of UNCA’s top students received special awards at the ceremony.
Jacob Berkowitz, an environmental studies major from Spartanburg, S.C.
received the William and Ida Friday Award for Community Service. While
carrying a challenging academic load, Berkowitz pursued research on
arsenic in pressure-treated lumber, volunteered with Clean Water of North
Carolina, and co-founded the Better Asheville Recycling Coalition. He is
heading to graduate school at the University of California-Riverside,
where he was awarded a Dean's Fellowship to pursue a master's degree in
soil and water sciences.
Marasi Mwencha, a chemistry major from Kenya, received the A.C.
Reynolds Award and the Thomas D. Reynolds Prize for Campus Service.
Mwencha was praised for reinventing UNCA's International Student
Association, starting a Student Investment Club, tutoring in chemistry and
leading an intermural soccer team into two years of championships. His
undergraduate research explored chemical compounds that demonstrate
anti-cancer activity. A December graduate, Mwencha works in the
Washington, D.C. area as a pharmaceutical researcher.
Michael Roach, a chemistry major from Greensboro, was
named the recipient of the Manly Wright Award, presented to the student
who is first in scholarship. Roach, who had a 4.0 GPA, conducted research
with UNCA Professor Bert Holmes on replacement chemicals for CFCs. He was
also the first UNCA soccer player to be named to the NCAA Academic
All-American Soccer Team and was named Big South Scholar-Athlete of the
Year in 2002. The recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation
Graduate Fellowship, Roach will start a five-year Ph.D. program in science
and engineering at the University of Virginia this coming fall.
The Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award went to Kevin Moorhead,
chair and associate professor of environmental studies. Moorhead, who
joined the faculty in 1992, has taught in the First Year Experience
Program, the Honors Program, supervised student internships and
participated in a faculty exchange program in England. He is noted for
integrally involving students in his ongoing assessment and restoration of
the Tulula Wetlands Mitigation Bank, a 250-acre tract of land in the
extreme far western part of North Carolina. This project has become a
model program for wetland restoration projects in other regions.
UNCA 2003 Graduation Sidebar
Total number of graduates: 576
Percent of female graduates: 55.8%
Percent of male graduates: 44.2%
Percent of graduates from Buncombe County: 38%
Percent of graduates from Western North Carolina: 60%
Number of states represented by graduates: 20
Percentage of graduates by discipline --