Herbst, Katz Headline Roster of Commencement Speakers

A diverse group of speakers will help usher nearly 6,000 graduating students into the next stage of their careers.

Group of mortar board caps being thrown in the air.

Group of mortar board caps being thrown in the air.

President Susan Herbst.
President Susan Herbst.

UConn President Susan Herbst and Joette Katz ’77 JD, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families and a former longtime justice of the state Supreme Court, will address nearly 2,700 graduates of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences during dual commencement exercises May 6 in the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.

Herbst, who will speak at 12:30 p.m., and Katz, who will speak at 5 p.m., head a list of 14 speakers scheduled to deliver commencement addresses to students graduating from UConn’s various schools and colleges in May.

The speaker during the Graduate School ceremonies will be Robert Gallo, who discovered that the HIV antivirus was the cause of AIDS. He will speak at 1:30 p.m. May 5, also in Gampel Pavilion. Gallo is the founding director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He previously spent 30 years at the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, where he was head of its Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology.

Dr. Robert C. Gallo, Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. (Speaker and Honorary Degree recipient at Graduate ceremony.
Dr. Robert C. Gallo.

Gallo, a Waterbury, Conn. native, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree during the graduate ceremonies. Thomas Pogge, director of the Global Justice Program and the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws at the same ceremony. Other honorary degrees will be awarded to Joseph Polisi ’69 (CLAS), president of The Juilliard School, during the fine arts graduation; and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws during the law school commencement.

Joseph C. Papa, Jr. '78 has served as Perrigo's president and chief executive officer and as a member of the Board of Directors since October 2006. (School of Pharmacy, Graduate Speaker and Honorary Degree recipient)
Joseph C. Papa Jr.

Also, Joseph C. Papa ’78 (PHAR), chairman, president, and CEO of Perrigo Co., will receive an honorary Doctor of Science during the School of Pharmacy’s doctoral ceremonies. Papa was recently named by Barron’s as one of the world’s top 30 CEO’s. Richard Valachovic ’77 DMD, longtime executive director of the American Dental Education Association, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science during ceremonies for graduates of the schools of medicine and dental medicine. All honorary degrees are pending approval by the UConn Board of Trustees at its April 25 meeting.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

Other speakers include Stefan Pryor, commissioner of the state Department of Education, who will speak to graduates of the Neag School of Education at 9 a.m. May 6, in the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts; Georgia Congressman John Lewis, called one of the most courageous persons produced by the civil rights movement, who will speak to graduates at the UConn School of Law; and Denise Merrill ’88 (BGS), Connecticut’s secretary of state, who will deliver an address to bachelor of general studies candidates from the Center for Continuing Studies.

Herbst, who officially took office as UConn’s first woman president in July 2011, previously served as executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer of the University System of Georgia, where she led 15 university presidents and oversaw the academic missions for all 35 public universities in Georgia. She also served as provost and executive vice president at the State University of New York at Albany, where she was acting president in 2006-2007. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Duke University in 1984, and her doctorate in communication theory and research from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication in Los Angeles in 1989.

Herbst is a scholar of public opinion, media, and American politics, and is author of four books and many articles in these areas. Along with Benjamin Page, Lawrence Jacobs, and James Druckman, she edits the University of Chicago Press series in American Politics.

Joette Katz, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, at her office in Hartford on May 24, 2011. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Joette Katz.

Katz was named to head DCF by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in November 2010, and left her post as an associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court after 18 years to take on what is considered one of the most difficult jobs in the state.

Katz, a 1977 graduate of UConn’s School of Law, began her career as an attorney, then became an assistant public defender. She served as chief of legal services for the chief public defender from 1983 to 1989, the first woman to serve in the role in Connecticut. She was nominated to the Superior Court bench in 1989, and was elevated to the Supreme Court bench in 1992.

Gallo is best known for his role in discovering HIV, but he is also responsible for many other scientific advances. In the early 1980s, he and his team pioneered the development of the HIV blood test, which enabled health care workers for the first time to screen for the AIDS virus. His research also helped physicians develop HIV therapies to prolong the lives of those infected with the virus. His discovery in 1996 that a natural compound known as chemokines can block the HIV virus and halt the progression of AIDS was hailed by Science magazine as one of that year’s most important scientific breakthroughs.

Before the AIDS epidemic, Gallo was the first to identify a human retrovirus and the human leukemia virus (HTLV), one of a few known viruses shown to cause a human cancer. In 1976, he and his colleagues discovered Interleukin-2, a growth-regulating substance now used as therapy in some cancers and sometimes AIDS. And, in 1986, he and his group discovered the first new human herpes virus in more than 25 years, which was later shown to cause an infantile disease known as Roseola.

The complete Commencement schedule, with the speaker for each ceremony (in chronological order), is as follows:

Saturday, May 5

  • School of Engineering: May 5 at 9 a.m., Gampel Pavilion; Arunava Majumdar, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy;
  • School of Pharmacy (doctoral): May 5 at 9 a.m., Lewis B. Rome Ballroom; Joseph C. Papa, chairman, president and executive officer, Perrigo Co.
  • Center for Continuing Studies: May 5 at 1 p.m., Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts; Secretary of the State Denise Merrill;
  • Graduate School: May 5 at 1:30 p.m., Gampel Pavilion; Robert Gallo, director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine;
  • School of Pharmacy (undergraduate): May 5 at 4 p.m., Lewis B. Rome Ballroom; Richard. T. Carbray ’75 Ph.D., owner, Apex Pharmacy and Home Health Center, and member of the UConn Board of Trustees.
  • School of Fine Arts: May 5 at 5 p.m., Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts; Ben Cameron, program director for the arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation;
  • College of Agriculture & Natural Resources and Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture: May 5 at 6 p.m., Harry A. Gampel Pavilion; Marshall Matz ’78 (BUS), an attorney specializing in food, nutrition and agriculture.

Sunday, May 6

  • School of Business: May 6 at 9 a.m., Gampel Pavilion; Claire Leonardi, CEO and executive director, Connecticut Innovations;
  • Neag School of Education: May 6 at 9 a.m., Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts; Stefan Pryor, commissioner, state Department of Education;
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: May 6 at 12:30 p.m., Gampel Pavilion; UConn President Susan Herbst;
  • School of Nursing: May 6 at 1 p.m., Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts; Donna M. Nickitas, deputy executive officer for the Doctor of Nursing Science Program, City University of New York;
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: May 6 at 5 p.m., Gampel Pavilion; Joette Katz, commissioner, Department of Children and Families.

Sunday, May 13

  • Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine: May 13 at 2 p.m., Connecticut Convention Center; Edison T. Liu, president and CEO, The Jackson Laboratories, and president of HUGO.

Sunday, May 20

  • School of Law: May 20 at 11 a.m., Commencement Tent, School of Law, Elizabeth Street, Hartford; U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia).


Thomas Pogge is the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale, Professorial Fellow at the Australian National University, Research Director at the Oslo University Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN) and a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science. Honorary Degree/Graduate ceremony.
Thomas Pogge.
School of Business commencement speaker, Claire Leonardi.
Claire Leonardi.
Dr. Edison T. Liu is the President and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory, and has been president of the international Human Genome Organization (HUGO) since 2007. (S.Rosen Photo)
Edison T. Liu. (S.Rosen Photo)
Richard T. Carbray, Jr. R.Ph. '•75 is a cum laude graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a member of the Rho Chi and Mortar and Pestle Societies. (School of Pharmacy, Undergraduate Speaker)
Richard T. Carbray Jr.