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Updated 3:00 PM May 8, 2003



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Gov. Granholm urges grads to aspire to greatness

University graduates should use their diplomas for great things and should not squander their tremendous talents, Jennifer Granholm said at U-M April 26 in her first commencement address as governor of Michigan.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm and President Mary Sue Coleman don their shades and strike a pose in a light-hearted moment before the start of Commencement.(Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

"My wish is that when that diploma is handed to you—like a relay runner passes the baton—that you feel the force, feel the charge of leadership and a calling to use that revered diploma to do a great thing," Granholm said during Spring Commencement exercises in Michigan Stadium. "To embody excellence, complexity and service, and then to become, as Gandhi would say, become the change you want to see in the world."

She asked graduates to ponder how they would leave their mark in life. "It is easy to serve yourself," Granholm said to a crowd of about 40,000 people. "Everyone is doing that. The essence of leadership is to build something much more than merely an altar of oneself."

President Mary Sue Coleman also made her first Spring Commencement address since taking office in July 2002. She spoke about the information revolution, and said the graduates have a responsibility "to allow this information to provide you with intellectual freedom, rather than a world of deceit."

Undergraduate degrees were conferred on more than 6,400 members of the Class of 2003. One of them was Isaac Wheeler, who did his best not to get lost in the crowd.

The structure on the top of Wheeler's mortarboard was an architectural feat, of sorts. As he stood outside the gates of Michigan Stadium before Commencement, people all around him pointed or stared at the creation that looked like a cross between a teepee and a makeshift sombrero, made entirely of chopsticks.

"My family and I went for Chinese food last night, and they said they were worried they wouldn't be able to see me" during the graduation ceremony, explained Wheeler, who earned a degree in history and economics.

It was a useful prop in the crowded stands, for Wheeler and his friends. "We're telling our families we're sitting next to the guy with the Chinese teepee on his head," said Cara Chanowski, who earned a degree in communications and women's studies.

During commencement, honorary doctoral degrees were conferred upon Granholm, doctor of laws; Oleg Grabar, professor emeritus at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies, doctor of humane letters; Judith Jamison, director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, doctor of fine arts; Hillel Shuval, Lunenfeld-Kunen Professor of Environmental Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, doctor of science; and Dr. John Schwarz, former Michigan state senator representing Battle Creek, doctor of laws. Billy Taylor, jazz pianist and educator, received an honorary doctor of music degree and was the speaker at U-M-Flint commencement exercises.

A day earlier (April 25), the University granted 175 doctorates and 1,143 master's degrees during ceremonies in Crisler Arena.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm and President Mary Sue Coleman don their shades and strike a pose in a light-hearted moment before the start of Commencement.

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