UConn News HomeUConn News

Holder of first UConn pharmacy doctorate urges advanced degree recipients to work on behalf of others (Released: 5/17/98)

by David Pesci, Office of University Communications.

Storrs , Conn. -- Invoking such diverse figures as Alexander Fleming, Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, and Henry David Thoreau, University of Connecticut graduate commencement speaker Varro E. Tyler exhorted the advanced degree recipients to try to use their academic interests to benefit others.

Text of Varro Tyler's address

"You students who are graduating today have been exceptionally fortunate in being able to carry out advanced studies in the field that interests you most," Tyler said at the ceremony Sunday afternoon. "While knowledge in and of itself is good, it becomes most useful when employed for the benefit of humankind."

That was just one of the messages that came out of Tyler’s address to the more-than 1,400 doctoral and master’s degree candidates and educators who were honored at the graduate degree ceremonies.

Tyler, who in 1953 earned the first PhD. in pharmacy awarded by the University of Connecticut, acknowledged the intrigue of scholarly pursuits, citing Fleming’s notebook entry, "I was sufficiently interested to pursue the subject." The quote, which Tyler said is immortalized in the British Museum, was written as Fleming as he began studying a mold culture that led to his discovery of penicillin.

But he also told those gathered at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion that education was as much about acquiring values as it was a pursuit of facts and discovery.

"Permit me to urge you not just to know values, but to implement them in such a way that others may benefit," Tyler said.

Tyler, a seminal figure in the field of pharmacognosy — the study of herbal and natural medications — also emphasized the quality of instruction the students received at the University.

"The education you have received from the University of Connecticut is not just for your careers, but an education for life itself."

Tyler was one of three honorary degree recipients acknowledged at the ceremony, receiving the Doctor of Science degree. He was joined by Frank McCourt, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes, who was presented with a Doctor of Letters, and Alphonse Chapanis, the noted psychologist and "father of ergonomics," who received a Doctor of Science. Chapanis is a member of the University’s Class of 1937.

Four faculty were recognized during the commencement as recipients of the inaugural Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award. The award, established to recognized outstanding researchers at the University were presented to Gerald Dunne, associate professor of physics; William Fitzgerald, professor of marine sciences; David Kenny, professor of psychology; and Ruth Millikan, professor of philosophy.

The University conferred 1,155 master’s degrees, 273 doctoral degrees, and 47 sixth-year education certificates at the afternoon ceremony.