The University Record, November 19, 2001

Baxter to give commencement address

By Mary Jo Frank
Office of Communications

Short story writer and novelist Charles M. Baxter will give the commencement address at the University’s winter commencement Dec. 16.

The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. in Crisler Arena. Some 2,000 U-M students on the Ann Arbor campus expect to receive degrees this winter.

U-M Regents voted Nov. 15 to present honorary degrees to Dwight A. Gourneau, inventor and president of NAMTech Inc., a management and technical services consulting company, and Kapila Vatsyayan, a scholar and former Secretary of the Department of Arts and Culture in the Ministry of Education in India, and founding director of the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts.

Baxter, adjunct professor and former director of the University’s graduate program in creative writing, joined the U-M faculty as a professor of English in 1989. His primary interests are creative writing, fiction and poetry, and modernism.

His most recent novel, The Feast of Love (Pantheon 2000), was a finalist for the National Book Award. Baxter’s publications include two other highly acclaimed novels: Shadow Play (W.W. Norton, 1993) and First Light (Viking/Penguin, 1987). Baxter’s short story collections, A Relative Stranger (W.W. Norton, 1990), Through the Safety Net (Viking/Penguin, 1985), and Harmony of the World (University of Missouri Press, 1984) have been well received by critics and fans. He is the author of a book of poems titled Imaginary Paintings (Paris Review Editions, 1990); Believers (Pantheon/Vintage, 1997), a collection of six short stories and a novella; and Burning Down the House (Graywolf Press, 1997), a book of essays on fiction. Baxter also edited The Business of Memory (1999). He has published stories and poems in, among others, the Atlantic Monthly, , Michigan Quarterly Review, the New Yorker and the Paris Review.

A graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., Baxter taught in the public schools of Pinconning, Mich., before earning a doctorate at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He also taught at Wayne State University.

Dwight Gourneau of Rochester, Minn., an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa of North Dakota, retired in 1992 from IBM after 27 years as a computer development engineer and manager. Since retiring, he has contributed to the economic development of American Indian tribes by creating and developing formation technology service companies. Gourneau has published 12 inventions and holds two patents, and in 1994 received the Ely S. Parker Medal from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) for his lifetime professional and service achievements.

For more than two decades, Gourneau has encouraged American Indian students to pursue education and careers in science, math, engineering and technology. He has served as an adviser to AISES’s network of 160 college chapters, developed math and science teacher enhancement projects at the regional and national level, and taught at summer pre-college math and science institutes. He also is a founder of the National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair. He has chaired the Board of Trustees of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the AISES Board of Directors and has served on the National Science Foundation’s Committee on Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering. Gourneau is a member of the Minnesota Private Colleges’ Board of Trustees. He holds bachelor of science degrees in electrical engineering and physics, and a master of science degree in manufacturing systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Gourneau will receive the honorary degree Doctor of Laws.

Kapila Vatsyayan is one of India’s most influential cultural leaders. She was associated with the Indira Gandhi National Center of the Arts in India in 1986–1999. Under her leadership, the center became the focal point for the preservation and dissemination of India’s cultural heritage. As secretary of the Department of Arts and Culture in the Ministry of Education, she established many institutions of higher education in the humanities. She spearheaded the development of a national policy for programs of art history and education and cultural awareness, as well as a major reprint program for rare books, dramatically improving access to numerous works of Indian literature and history, both within India and around the world. She has administered cultural exchange programs with more than 30 countries.

Vatsyayan is the author of more than 20 major publications on cultural policies in India and has taught at, among others, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Vatsyayan, who earned degrees from the University of Delhi, a master of arts degree from the U-M and a Ph.D. from Banarus Hindu University, has received numerous honors, including Rajiv Gandhi National Award for Harmony and National Integration. Vatsyayan will receive the honorary degree Doctor of Fine Arts.