Alumnus addresses graduates

by Max Rust

An ensemble of graduating College of Liberal Arts students was told on Sunday to lend a helping hand to others after they leave the University and enter the real world.
Commencement speaker Robert Berdahl, a University alumnus and current University of Texas president, addressed a Northrop Auditorium filled with cap-and-gown-clad graduates and their onlookers during two separate CLA commencement ceremonies.
“My hope is that you will spend your energy not simply in making it, but in making it better for others with whom you share this planet,” said Berdahl, who received an honorary doctoral degree from the University before Sunday’s ceremonies. In the history of the school, only 115 honorary degrees have been given. Last year’s recipient was Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Berdahl, who earned his doctorate degree in German history from the University in 1965, made some school administrators nervous last March when he accepted the chancellorship at the University of California-Berkeley, effective July 1.
His announced departure left some to speculate that then University of Texas Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Yudof would fill the empty Texas presidency instead of coming to Minnesota.
But Yudof, the University’s president-designate, affirmed his desire to come to the school and is in the process of moving to the Twin Cities.
While many students found Berdahl’s speech inspiring, others were simply relieved to finally be finished with school.
“It’s taken me 20 years off and on,” said graduate Jose Demarest, who received an undergraduate degree in theater. “It was more trouble than it was worth, but I’m happy to be done with it.”
Like some other graduates, Demarest regards the degree primarily as a means of entering graduate school.
“It is a piece of paper, but it’s also all of my hard work,” said Shalini Dhuria, who received degrees in child psychology and French. Dhuria explained that she will now take a year off to work before applying to graduate school.
“You can’t really get a good job without a master’s,” she said.
Although 1,600 CLA graduates earned degrees this past year, 560 came to the morning event and 450 attended the afternoon ceremony.
Miche Goetz thought it was important to experience the ritual because he is the first in his family to graduate from college.
“I had a lot of relatives who wanted me to stand up and go through the whole thing,” he explained.
A film studies graduate, Goetz values the time he has spent at the University, despite the impersonality often associated with huge schools.
“I feel like a number mostly, but I can’t argue about the education,” he said.
Berdahl ended the commencement address with a benediction, quoting from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater”:
“Hello babies, welcome to earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of babies: Dammit, you’ve got to be kind.”