Cheers greet 900 UMBC graduates

Diplomas delivered before raucous crowd of 8,000 at Baltimore Arena

May 26, 1999|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

The cheering at the Baltimore Arena reached levels yesterday that probably haven't been heard since the place was called the Civic Center and Earl Monroe was playing for the Bullets.

Though this was allegedly a more sedate occasion than a professional basketball game -- the commencement of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County -- the friends and families of the 900 graduates apparently didn't get the word.

In fact, they got some encouragement to express their enthusiasm.

"Unlike some, we are not going to ask you to hold your applause," UMBC president Freeman A. Hrabowski III told the assembled gathering when it came time to hand out the diplomas. "We know that would be foolish, so in fact we welcome your applause."

The crowd of about 8,000 responded with bursts of applause, screams of joy, shouted names, even air horns as the graduates took their turns strolling across the stage, the decibel level and general raucousness rising as the ceremony went on.

The atmosphere was a bit more sedate in the earlier sections of the afternoon ceremony devoted to formalities and speakers.

The biggest cheer came when Hrabowski introduced valedictorian Ryan Turner and said he and his twin brother Brian, who grew up in Nanticoke on the Eastern Shore, both had full National Institutes of Health fellowships to attend an M.D.-Ph.D. program at Harvard University.

"We are here, Class of 1999, gathered to rejoice in our finest hours and to celebrate the dreams that we have realized," Ryan Turner told his fellow graduates. "Our visions are our driving force, those vital elements that move us forward in life.

"As you partake in the offerings of life, remember to take time to plant seeds for the generations to come, meaning take time to give back to others as others have found time to give so much to you."

Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation who received an honorary degree at the ceremony, spoke to the graduates on the lessons of leadership from Albert Einstein.

"As a UMBC student, you were respected for your independent thought," she said. "You have also been encouraged to take risks. Einstein said, `Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.'

"When you are an innovator, a risk-taker, a rule-breaker, you are being fundamentally creative," she said. "Not everything will turn out to be perfect judgment, but you will have seasoned your leadership quotient.

Pub Date: 5/26/99

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