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MFC Speaking

Remarks of Chancellor Michael F. Collins at Commencement, June 5, 2011 

Greetings! Let me offer my welcome. I hereby declare the 38th annual Commencement Exercises of the University of Massachusetts Worcester officially open!

On behalf of all of us at the University of Massachusetts Worcester campus, let me welcome our graduates’ family members and friends who are with us at this joyful ceremony. We know that you share our pride in the many achievements of our graduates.

Of course, they have realized their success thanks in part to your support. Therefore, today’s celebration honors you, as well. So I ask the graduates to rise and join me in thanking their families and friends with a hearty round of applause.

I would also like us all to acknowledge those who cannot be here with us today because, as members of the United States Armed Forces, they have been called to duty, serving our country in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the world.

As a result of their working to preserve our freedom through selfless service to our nation, we are able to be here now. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and with the members of their families.

Representing a great diversity of educational backgrounds, cultures and geography, graduates of the Classes of 2011, you are recognized today for your remarkable academic accomplishments as well as your extraordinary commitment to reaching beyond the borders of the campus to work with and help others.

We applaud you as you prepare to take your rightful places in our city, our Commonwealth, our nation and our world as alumni of Massachusetts’ great public academic health sciences center.

Joining us on the platform are John G. O’Brien, president and chief executive officer of our clinical partner, and Dr. Walter Ettinger, President of UMass Memorial Medical Center.

Together our two institutions provide exceptional health care, outstanding education, and extraordinary basic and clinical research to our central Massachusetts communities and beyond.

We are pleased to welcome our state senator Harriette Chandler, who is a committed advocate for our medical school, the University system and public higher education in Massachusetts. Thank you, Senator, for participating in this most special day.

We are honored to have several members of the University Board of Trustees with us today:

Trustees Norman Peters and Kerri Osterhaus-Houle – Dr. Osterhaus-Houle is not only a University Trustees but also an alumna of our School of Medicine; student Trustee Michael Reid, from UMass Lowell; and Board of Trustees Chair James Karam. Trustee Karam, today, is also representing President Wilson, who is attending his daughter’s graduation.

Today’s ceremony caps an exceptional year for our campus. We continue to attract outstanding students—this year, in larger numbers—as our schools have increased their capacities in response to our nation’s need for scientists, nurses and physicians.

Our faculty and students have continued to win prizes, publish seminal works and attain research funding, which, this year on our campus, exceeds $250 million.

We initiated university-wide efforts as a Center for Clinical and Translation Sciences; and, ranking 8th in the nation, we continued our reputation as among the nation’s best institutions for primary care!

At UMassBiologics, the only non-profit, FDA-approved manufacturer of vaccines in our country, our colleagues continued to develop, produce and license vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. This year, it began clinical trials on a Hepatitis C monoclonal and advanced clinical trials in India on its rabies monoclonal.

At Commonwealth Medicine, our colleagues participated actively in health care reform efforts and worked with the Commonwealth and federal government to maximize resources to care for those who are deprived of it the most.

On our campus, we opened the Ambulatory Care Center, located directly behind you, which houses our academic health science center’s cardiovascular, cancer, musculoskeletal and diabetes centers of excellence, as well as our conquering disease biorepository.

And behind me, just to my right, work on the Albert Sherman Center has soared toward the sky! As one of the largest construction projects on the East Coast, it will house new campus and educational spaces in addition to increased research space for our Advanced Therapeutics Cluster: the RNA Institute, the Gene Therapy Institute and the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine.

In sum, our state’s only public academic health sciences center is flourishing. We educate scientists and health care practitioners, we care for those who are most in need, we are at the forefront of innovation and scientific discovery and we serve our own communities as well as communities across the globe.

But you, graduates, are our most important success. It has been a privilege for our faculty to have educated and mentored you during your time on our campus and at our clinical affiliates. As health care reform sweeps across our nation, we are pleased that you will be the ones to whom we entrust the future of science and health care.

As you begin your careers—and as you continue in them—we hope you will be inspired by those we pay tribute to today:

Like Arthur Pappas, you may have the opportunity to care for children or professional athletes. You may have the chance to serve your local community or lead a great institution like ours. You may have the good fortune to provide care for the underprivileged or make a philanthropic commitment that transforms lives.

In each instance, understand that the hand you hold or the heart you touch needs your talents and wants your concern.

To poor and rich, modest and famous, Arthur Pappas was their doctor. You could be, too!

Like Suzanne and Robert Wright, complex diseases as well as love for your patients and family members could transform your lives.

You may have the opportunity to unlock a disease mechanism directly or uncover millions of dollars to help you do so.

You may have to challenge scientific norms or gather scientific and public leaders to heed your call.

You may find the missing piece to a translational scientific puzzle or realize that a simple blue light signifies tremendous hope and transformational action.

In each instance, understand that the hand you hold or the heart you touch could be that of your daughter or grandchild.

To those challenged and forgotten, voiceless and frightened, Suzanne and Bob Wright are their advocates. You could be, too!

Like Donna Shalala, a university or a nation may call you. You may have the opportunity to participate in the creation of the science of health care reform or gather colleagues to join you in advocating for those most in need of care.

You may serve a president, be a president or set a precedent, each time helping those you serve find the voice, choice or access they require.

You may change the course of history for a disease or chart the course of public health that propels our nation or the global community, improving care for the hungry, the poor, the abused or the neglected.

In each instance, understand that the hand you hold or the heart you touch may not know you or be able to thank you.

To those who are now empowered and those who continue to seek relief, Donna Shalala is their believer. You could be, too!

As you chart your futures, we at the University of Massachusetts Worcester campus, its Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Graduate School of Nursing and School of Medicine shall all watch with much anticipation for your many accomplishments.

We hope that you will remain mindful that our communities, our Commonwealth, our nation and our world need you.

We need your intellect and innovation.

We need your care and compassion.

We need your humility and humanity.

Most important, we need you to remember that while many days will not be easy, or many nights restful, you are not alone.

Touch the hands of your patients, join the hands of your colleagues, hold the hands of your mentors and you will not only bring comfort, you will find comfort.

Your hands will be directed and your hearts will be guided with integrity and surety. And we shall take great pride in you, recognizing you as one of our own.