Sanford Cloud, Quincy Jones address 1996 graduating class (Released: 5/18/96)
by Renu Sehgal, Office of University Communications.
STORRS, Conn. -- Build a community that respects the richness of the world's diversity and bases judgment on civil and honest communication, human relations activist Sanford Cloud Jr. told University of Connecticut graduates.
''I challenge you, distinguished graduates of the Class of 1996, to go now from this great center of learning and become servant-leaders to your families, community, country and world, and in doing so, I ask you to make America a better place for all of us, not just some of us, but all of us,'' he said during the afternoon portion of twin ceremonies marking the University's 113th Commencement.
Cloud, a lawyer and philanthropist born and raised in Hartford, was bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Human Letters Degree for his tireless pursuit of understanding and tolerance among all people. The University also awarded Quincy Jones an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts and Frances M. Visco an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. In morning ceremonies, actor and comedian Bill Cosby was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.
Cloud is the first African-American president of the Conference, a major human relations organization founded in 1927 as The National Conference of Christians and Jews. A former two-term state senator from Hartford, Cloud was the primary sponsor of legislation that established Connecticut's Department of Housing, an agency that has helped thousands of low-income state residents find affordable housing. For 15 years, he worked to instill social responsibility in corporate America. He worked for Aetna Life & Casualty as vice president for corporate public involvement and was executive director of the Aetna Foundation in the 1980s.
Cloud, who has spent a lifetime helping people to seek a common ground, encouraged students to be open and honest with people from all cultures so that prejudice and bigotry could be overcome.
''As we discuss the difficult issues that face us, in private as well as public settings, our tone must be civil and with respect for one another,'' he said. ''When we speak within the confines of our homes, we must be respectful of those who differ from us.''
In an afternoon of surprises, Quincy Jones did not receive a stirring citation when bestowed an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. Instead, his extraordinary career was honored by a jazz/gospel composition performed by the UConn Jazz Ensemble and the Voices of Freedom, the University's 40-member gospel choir. The eight-minute piece featured parts of his own compositions.
''You are so beautiful,'' he said after clapping and dancing along with the music. ''Thank you very much. The music just blew me away. I'm so honored I can't tell you.''
Jones' career has encompassed the roles of composer, record producer, artist, film producer, arranger, conductor, instrumentalist, TV producer, record company executive, magazine founder and multi-media entrepreneur. The winner of 26 Grammy Awards, including a special Grammy living legend award, an Emmy winner and seven-time Oscar nominee, he has composed 33 major motion picture scores. Among his many other contributions, he co-produced the motion picture The Color Purple, nominated for 11 Academy Awards.
Jones told the graduates to never give up on the war against racism, disease and intolerance.
''You're all in a special position to leave your mark on this world. It's a wonderful opportunity to shape and reshape this world -- and it starts with education,'' he said. ''We need to provide access to the information superhighway to everyone because to be computer illiterate in the 21st century will be doom.''
He asked graduates, faculty and all attendees to stand, hold each other's hands and repeat a list of vows, including to ''write a letter to someone who misses you; examine your demands on others and reduce them; overcome an old fear; tell someone you love them; and again, and again and again!''
The University also awarded Frances M. Visco a Doctor of Humane Letters. The first president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and a member of its board of directors, Visco is a recognized leader in the field of women's health and a breast cancer survivor. Visco was appointed to the President's Cancer Panel by President Bill Clinton in May 1993 and sits on the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Integration Panel. A lawyer who previously was a partner at the firm of Cohen, Shapiro, Polisher, Shiekman, and Cohen of Philadelphia, Pa., she resigned her position in March 1995 to devote herself to National Breast Cancer Coalition activities.