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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

University of Rhode Island
2001 Commencement speakers

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 19, 2001 -- The University of Rhode Island will host five distinguished speakers during its two-day 115th Commencement Ceremonies on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20, 2001. About 2,200 undergraduate and 700 graduate degrees will be awarded during the ceremonies.

Students and their guests will hear remarks from one of the nation's leading technology journalists during Saturday’s Graduate ceremonies. Crusaders in human services and women’s health, an internationally and locally renowned musician, and the youngest-ever Pulitzer Prize winning fiction writer will speak at Sunday’s Undergraduate exercises. During the ceremonies, the speakers will also be presented with the University’s highest award, the honorary doctoral degree.

The speakers are: Former President of Travelers Aid Society of Rhode Island Marion Avarista of Cranston, R.I.; Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra David Kim of Bryn Mawr, Penn.; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, of New York City, formerly of South Kingstown, R.I.; Rhode Island Breast Cancer Coalition Co-founder Marlene McCarthy of Coventry, R.I.; and Wall Street Journal Columnist Walter Mossberg of Washington, D.C., and a native of Warwick, R.I. The first four honorees will speak during the Undergraduate Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday on the URI Quadrangle. Mossberg will offer remarks during the Graduate Ceremony at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the Mackal Field House.

"We’re delighted to have with us this year a group of five extraordinary people from diverse fields and backgrounds who will share their special wishes for our graduates," said URI President Robert L. Carothers. "Recognizing the accomplishments and contributions of each of these individuals sends a positive message to our students about the attitudes and effort it takes to succeed.

"Marion Avarista, Marlene McCarthy, David Kim, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Walter Mossberg are examples of people who are using their talents and drive to make a difference and contribute to the lives of others," he added.

The 2001 Honorary Degree recipients and speakers are:

AvaristapicMarion F. Avarista
The former president of Travelers Aid Society of Rhode Island, Marion Avarista is a longstanding advocate in Rhode Island who has devoted much of her life to the poor, residents of the inner city, the homeless and others in need. She has spent nearly three decades working in the non-profit social welfare system on behalf of others, and has received numerous awards for her leadership to improve services for the disadvantaged. During her 15 years as head of Travelers Aid, Avarista expanded the agency that was originally known to provide emergency assistance to travelers into a broad-based human service agency that has become a model replicated by others nationwide. Through Traveler’s Aid, Avarista established the first outreach program for runaway youths in Providence, the largest transitional housing program for homeless families, the first Independent Living Program for 18 to 22 year-old youths, and the national "Call Home" Program for runaways that was implemented by AT&T. Avarista’s mobile medical van program serving homeless and runaway youths, was recognized as one of President George Bush’s "Thousand Points of Light." Prior to her position at Travelers Aid, Avarista worked for 14 years as Community Affairs Vicariate for the Diocese of Providence. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Rhode Island College. Avarista will receive the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 20. (Photo courtesy of Marion Avarista.)

KimpicDavid Kim
Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1999, David Kim started playing the violin at age 3, began studies with the famed pedagogue Dorothy DeLay at age 8 and later received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School. In 1986 he was the only American violinist to win a prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Kim is also the founder and artistic director of the Kingston Chamber Music Festival at the University of Rhode Island (founded in 1989) where he holds the position of special guest artist. Despite a pressing international performance schedule, both as a soloist and as a concertmaster, Kim devotes time each year to bring classical music to children. In conjunction with the Kingston Chamber Music Festival, Kim founded an annual outreach program that takes him to elementary schools, performing and speaking about classical music in an effort to make such music accessible to all. In the past 12 years, he has performed for more than 10,000 young people in the State of Rhode Island. Kim will receive the Honorary Doctor of Arts degree during the undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 20. (Photo courtesy of David Kim.)

LahiripicJhumpa Lahiri
Last year, at the age of 32, Jhumpa Lahiri was the youngest writer ever to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She received the prestigious award for her first book, Interpreter of Maladies (Houghton Mifflin, 1999), a collection of original short stories documenting the difficulties of characters caught between two cultures, Indian and American. Jhumpa Lahiri's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Agni, Epoch, The Louisville Review, Harvard Review, Story Quarterly, and elsewhere. She was a recipient of a Transatlantic Review award from the Henfield Foundation in 1993, and a fiction prize from The Louisville Review in 1997. From 1997 through 1998 she was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Born in London, England, and raised in South Kingstown, Lahiri has traveled several times to India, where both her parents were born and raised, and where a number of the stories in Interpreter of Maladies are set. She is a graduate of Barnard College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in English literature, and of Boston University, where she received masters’ degrees in English, creative writing and comparative studies in literature and the arts, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She has taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Lahiri will receive the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 20. (Photo by Jerry Bauer, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.)

McCarthypicMarlene McCarthy
Marlene McCarthy has been a leading breast cancer advocate in Rhode Island and nationally since she was diagnosed with the disease twelve years ago. McCarthy is the co-founder and chair of the Rhode Island Breast Cancer Coalition. She is appointed to the board of directors of the Rhode Island Cancer Council and is chair of the R.I. Dept. of Health’s Public Education Committee for the Rhode Island Women’s Cancer Screening Program. The national magazine MAMM identified her as one of "50 Making A Difference in Breast Cancer" in October 1998 and she was featured as a "powerhouse" for breast cancer in Rhode Island Monthly magazine's March 2000 issue. ABC-TV6 also honored her with the Freedom Torch Award for her volunteer efforts on behalf of women. McCarthy has testified before the U.S. Congress on the need for critical legislation and each year she brings a group of Rhode Island women to Washington, D.C., to train as breast cancer advocates. McCarthy has also authored and co-authored articles on breast cancer and she is a contributing author to the medical text The Breast: Comprehensive Management of Benign and Malignant Diseases. Nationally, McCarthy serves on the board of directors and executive committee of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, as the Consumer Representative on breast cancer to the National Cancer Cooperative Group, on the National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Progress Review Group, and as a grant reviewer for the Department of Defense Peer Review Breast Cancer Research Program, among others. She has also served on the organizing committee for two of the International Breast Cancer Conferences in Brussels, Belgium and has been invited to address several European cancer meetings. McCarthy will receive the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 20. (Photo courtesy of Marlene McCarthy.)

MossbergpicWalter S. Mossberg
Walter Mossberg is the author and creator of the weekly Personal Technology column in The Wall Street Journal. He is considered by media professionals and readers alike to be the most trusted interpreter of the latest in computer technology developments affecting consumers. Brill's Content, the watchdog magazine that covers the press, ranks Mossberg as one of the 25 most influential people in the American news media. For his work on the Personal Technology column, Mossberg received the 1999 Loeb Award for Commentary. For five years in a row, 1995-1999, he was named as the most influential journalist writing about computers, in the annual ranking published by Marketing Computers magazine. For four years in a row, Upside magazine has ranked him as one of the 100 most influential people in the digital world. Mossberg also writes a second weekly column in The Wall Street Journal, called Mossberg's Mailbox, in which he answers readers' questions, and he is a contributing editor of Smart Money, The Wall Street Journal's monthly magazine. Mossberg appears frequently as a technology commentator for the CNBC network, and he contributes a weekly commentary to the public-television series, Digital Duo. Mossberg has been a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal since 1970. A native of Warwick, Mossberg links his start in journalism to his Rhode Island roots. As a senior at Pilgrim High School in Warwick in 1965, he was selected by The Providence Journal-Bulletin to write a weekly high school news column and later received a scholarship to the summer high school journalism program at Northwestern. Mossberg graduated from Brandeis University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Mossberg will receive the honorary doctor of Laws during the graduate commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 19. (Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.)


For more information, Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500,

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