2018 Commencement Speakers

Douglas Elliot '82 (BUS), center, listens as President Susan Herbst, right, reads the citation and Lawrence Gramling, associate dean, holds a hood as Elliot receives an honorary degree during the School of Business Commencement ceremony at Gampel Pavilion on May 7, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Douglas Elliot '82 (BUS), center, listens as President Susan Herbst, right, reads the citation and Lawrence Gramling, associate dean, holds a hood, in preparation for Elliot to receive an honorary degree during the School of Business Commencement ceremony in May 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Whether representing the legal cases of families of children with special needs, leading efforts to teach young and pre-teen girls of color in-demand skills in technology and computer programming, or steering the course of Fidelity Personal Investing, the honored guests of UConn’s commencement ceremonies are leaders in their fields.

Speakers charged with the task of imparting life wisdom to graduates include:

Kimberly Bryant, School of Engineering
Saturday, May 5, 9 a.m., Gampel Pavilion
Recipient of Honorary Doctor of Science Degree

Bryant is the founder and executive director of Black Girls Code, an education nonprofit that provides young and pre-teen girls of color the opportunity to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming. She is also a current Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellow, which facilitates the growth of innovative leaders in the educational excellence and equity movement. She has recently served as a technical project manager consultant for companies, such as Life Technologies and Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.

Before founding Black Girl Code in 2011, Bryant was senior project manager with Genetech, where she was responsible for major technology transfer projects, leading a cross-functional team from a variety of departments. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in 1989, and was recently inducted into Vanderbilt Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

Bryant is committed to promoting diversity in the STEM fields. Black Girls Code has taught thousands of girls of color, from the ages of 6 to 17, how to write code. The goal of the organization is to train 1 million girls by 2040. The organization currently operates in seven states, as well as Johannesburg, South Africa, with plans to expand into eight more cities. Black Girls Code operates in cities including Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, and is the subject of an award-winning documentary.

Roger Boissonneault ’71 (CLAS) , Doctor of Pharmacy Degree
Saturday, May 5, 9 a.m., Rome Ballroom

Boissonneault has had a long and distinguished career in the field of pharmaceutical science. At the time of his retirement, he was serving as president, chief executive officer, and director of Warner Chilcott PLC, Warner Chilcott-U.S. LLC, and Warner Chilcott Corp.

Prior to its acquisition by the global pharmaceutical firm Actavis in 2013, Warner Chilcott was a publicly-held global specialty pharmaceutical company that focused on the women’s healthcare, gastroenterology, dermatology, and urology segments of the branded pharmaceuticals market, primarily in North America. At the time of its sale, and under Boissonneault’s direction, the company had annual revenues in excess of $2.3 billion.

Prior to his association with Warner Chilcott, he began his career with the pharmaceutical company Warner Lambert, where he held a number of positions including vice president of female healthcare, director of corporate strategic planning, director of obstetrics/gynecology marketing, vice president of female healthcare, and vice president and general manager. He has also served as a director of Boron, LePore, & Associates, a firm that provides integrated medical education to the healthcare industry.

Boissonneault holds over a dozen patents for pharmaceutical drugs, nearly all of which resulted in commercial products related to oral contraceptives, antibiotics, hormone replacement, and ulcerative colitis. His loyalty to UConn has been significant, particularly his generous contributions to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Fund for UConn, which supports needs such as undergraduate and graduate education, research initiatives, multicultural affairs, and more.

Ruth McCorkle, School of Nursing
Saturday, May 5, 9 a.m., Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts

A pioneer in oncology nursing, Ruth McCorkle has been named the first Florence Schorske Wald Professor at the Yale School of Nursing (YSN). McCorkle is currently a professor of nursing, former director of the Center for Excellence in Chronic Illness Care, and was chair of the Doctor of Nursing Science Program from 1998 to 2004. She was also the program leader for Cancer Control at the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center from 1998 to 2010, and a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Yale School of Medicine. McCorkle is currently the director of Psychosocial Oncology at Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center.

She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Maryland and a master’s in medical-surgical nursing from the University of Iowa. Her doctorate, in mass communications, was earned at the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism. She has held teaching positions at a variety of institutions across the country, including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, and the University of Iowa.

Elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1990, McCorkle is the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards. Some of her many honors include the Book of the Year Award for Cancer Nursing from the American Journal of Nursing, a Distinguished Merit Award from the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care, and a Distinguished Research Award from the Oncology Nursing Society. She was named the Nurse Scientist of the Year by the Council of Nurse Researchers of the American Nurses Association, one of the most coveted awards in the field of nursing. In 2009, she received the Bernard Fox Research Award for outstanding contribution to the field of psycho-oncology. Recently, she received the Jimmie Holland Leadership Award and the Trish Green Quality of Life Award, and was inducted into the 2014 International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. A prolific writer, her work has been published in many professional journals in the U.S. and abroad.

Ken Lalime ’79 (PHR), School of Pharmacy
Saturday, May 5, 4 p.m., Rome Ballroom  

Lalime is a lifelong Connecticut resident with more than 35 years of experience in the health care arena. A 1979 graduate of the UConn School of Pharmacy and a current member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, he is the chief executive officer at the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut – a not-for-profit service organization dedicated to strengthening and supporting the clinical and administrative operations of community health centers across the state.

Prior to his current position, Lalime was the chief executive officer of HealthyCT – the Connecticut-based health insurance co-op. There, his vision was to develop a progressive health plan that facilitated the delivery of efficient, evidence-based medical care through a consumer-focused and patient-centered health care delivery model.

In addition, he has also been a principal at KRLHealth LLC, a firm that provides advice and assistance to public and private sector clients on issues including health policy, payment reform, risk assessment and mitigation, network development, and patient-centered approaches to population health management.

Lalime also served as executive director of the Connecticut State Medical Society-IPA – an independent practice association with 7,000 physician members. Prior to that, he was co-owner of Cranbury Pharmacy in his hometown of Norwalk. He also served in many roles – from hospital pharmacist to director of managed care – during a 17-year career at Norwalk Hospital.

Sonny Ramaswamy, College of Agriculture, Health, & Natural Resources
Saturday, May 5, 6 p.m., Gampel Pavilion

Sonny Ramaswamy was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s extramural science agency, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in May 2012. Through its portfolio of funding, NIFA catalyzes transformative discoveries, education, and engagement to address agricultural challenges.

Ramaswamy has previously held a number of academic positions, including dean of Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences; director of Purdue’s agricultural research programs; distinguished professor and head of Kansas State’s entomology department; professor of entomology at Mississippi State; and research associate at Michigan State. As an insect physiologist, he worked on integrative reproductive biology of insects.

Sonny has received grants from many federal agencies, including NIFA, NSF, NIH, EPA, and USAID. He has published nearly 150 journal articles, book chapters, and a book. His many honors and awards include Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Entomological Society of America; Frazier Lecturer, American Society for Horticultural Science; and Presidential Award, Soil Science Society of America.

Ramaswamy received his B.Sc. in agriculture and an M.Sc.  in entomology from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India; and his Ph.D. in entomology from Rutgers University. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska’s New Academic Chairs Program and Harvard University’s Management Development Program.

Howard M. Klebanoff ’62 JD, Neag School of Education
Sunday, May 6, 9 a.m., Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts

Klebanoff is known as one of Connecticut’s most distinguished attorneys specializing in special education law, having represented families of children with special needs for more than 40 years before retiring from active practice in 2017. The father of two children with disabilities, Klebanoff dedicated his career to ensuring that all children gained access to appropriate programming, services, and placement, whether in a public or private setting.

After earning his juris doctor degree from UConn, Klebanoff worked as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. He was later elected to the Connecticut Legislature, serving from 1969 to 1977. As House chairman of the Education Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly, he sponsored the state’s first comprehensive special education laws, as well as a total revision of the way education was funded in Connecticut. After leaving elective office, Klebanoff served as counsel to the Connecticut House of Representatives and was the first chair of the Connecticut Board of Higher Education.

For his work in the area of education law, he has been listed in Best Lawyers in America, U.S. News & World Report, Super Lawyers, and among Connecticut Magazine’s top lawyers in Connecticut. In recognition of Klebanoff’s work in the area of special education, the University of Connecticut established the Howard Klebanoff Institute of Special Education in 1997 at its Neag School of Education. The Institute’s mission is to improve the quality of educational and other services to children and adults with disabilities and their families by conducting research, disseminating information, and directing training activities aimed at overcoming legal, ethical, and systemic impediments to such services.

Kathleen A. Murphy ’87 JD, School of Business
Sunday, May 6, 9 a.m., Gampel Pavilion
Recipient of Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree

Murphy is president of Fidelity Personal Investing, which provides a full range of investment and financial planning services to millions of individual investors, including wealth management, retirement planning, and brokerage.

Murphy is also responsible for Fidelity’s life insurance and annuities business; its workplace savings business for tax-exempt organizations; all of the firm’s brand and advertising programs; Fidelity’s digital and data programs; Fidelity’s cross-company product and solution innovation; and Fidelity’s advisory services for retail and workplace managed accounts.

The businesses Murphy oversees have grown to $2.4 trillion in assets under administration, more than 19 million client accounts, and over 14,000 employees. Her business is the nation’s retirement leader – #1 in individual retirement accounts (IRAs), a leading U.S. broker, and one of the largest providers of investment advisory services and college savings plans.

Prior to joining Fidelity, Murphy was CEO of ING U.S. Wealth Management, leading the Defined Contribution, Defined Benefit, Retirement Solutions, Annuities, and ING Advisors Network businesses. She began her career with Aetna, spending 15 years in a variety of legal and government affairs positions, eventually serving as general counsel and chief compliance officer of Aetna Financial Services.

Crystal Emery ’85 (SFA), College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Sunday, May 6, 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., Gampel Pavilion
Recipient of Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree

Crystal R. Emery is a dynamic producer, author, and filmmaker known for producing socially conscious works and stories that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. She is also the founder and CEO of URU, The Right to Be, Inc., a non-profit content production company that tackles social issues via film, theater, publishing, and other arts-based initiatives. She is a member of the Producers Guild of America and New York Women in Film and Television.

Emery is a sought-after speaker and writer. She was hailed as “inspiring,” by the Los Angeles Times and a “leader in science and technology” in Good Housekeeping’s “50 over 50; Women Who are Changing the World.” Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Time magazine and The Huffington Post. To date, her published works include the first two volumes of the Little Man children’s book series, Against All Odds: Black Women in Medicine, and the forthcoming Master Builders of the Modern World: Reimagining the Face of STEM.

Emery began her professional career in theater and film. After receiving her bachelor of arts degree from UConn, majoring in dramatic arts, she apprenticed with renowned theater director Lloyd Richards (“Piano Lesson”) and polished her craft under the tutelage of film industry giant Bill Duke (“A Rage in Harlem”). Emery attained her master of arts in media studies from The New School for Public Engagement. She will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters, and will be the commencement speaker at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony in May.

Triumphing over two chronic diseases as a quadriplegic, Emery continues to shape a successful personal and professional life. She attributes her breakthrough as a producer and writer, and growth as a human being, to her participation in the classes taught by Guru Madeleine at The New School of Learning in New Rochelle, New York.

Dr. Lorne Golub, UConn Health
Monday, May 7, 1 p.m., Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts
Recipient of Honorary Doctor of Science Degree

Dr. Golub is a leading innovator in the development of medicines promoting oral health and treating chronic inflammatory diseases. A Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology and Pathology at Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine, Golub ushered in a new way of thinking about and treating one of the most prevalent human diseases, periodontitis – a major cause of tooth loss in adults worldwide.

A Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, Golub’s research innovations are largely related to his discoveries and development of therapeutic medications as inhibitors of tissue-destructive enzymes called the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). These novel medications have shown evidence of efficacy in a variety of oral and systemic diseases, including periodontitis, dermatitis, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular and lung diseases.

Golub has published more than 300 scientific articles over his 50 years of funded research, and holds 55 U.S. patents and 104 international patents. His discoveries led to the development of Periostat (CollaGenex Pharmaceuticals, Newtown, Pennsylvania), the first systemic agent to gain the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s market approval as a collagenase-inhibitor drug, for the treatment of progressive periodontal disease. Another drug, Oracea, also resulted from his research, and is used to treat chronic inflammatory skin disease. Golub’s current research and patent efforts focus on newer-generation MMP-inhibitor drugs.

Cornelia T.L. Pillard, School of Law
Sunday, May 20, 10:30 a.m., Law School Campus

Judge Pillard’s career spanned the offices of the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and Georgetown Law, before she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2013.

Pillard graduated from Yale College in 1983 and Harvard Law School in 1987. After graduation, she served as a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Louis H. Pollak from 1987 to 1988, and held the Marvin M. Karpatkin fellowship at the American Civil Liberties Union from 1988 to 1989. From 1989 to 1994 she was assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. She served as an assistant to the Solicitor General of the United States from 1994 to 1997.

In 1997, Pillard joined the faculty at Georgetown Law. She served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel from 1998 to 2000, returned to Georgetown Law, received tenure, and served from 2008 to 2009 as inaugural academic co-director and professor at the Center for Transnational Legal Studies, a London-based, Georgetown-led law study program conducted in collaboration with law schools from many different countries. Pillard was an active member of the Georgetown Law Supreme Court Institute from its founding in 2003, and became its faculty co-director in 2011. She was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars during 2012 and 2013. Pillard remained a full professor at Georgetown Law until her appointment as a U.S. Circuit judge.

John Kemp, Graduate School (Master’s Ceremony)
Saturday, May 5, 1:30 p.m., Gampel Pavilion
Recipient of Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters 

Kemp is president and chief executive officer of The Viscardi Center, a non-profit organization in Albertson, New York, that provides a wide range of services to educate and empower people with disabilities. Among those services is The Viscardi School, which offers a traditional educational setting to children with severe disabilities whose needs for health and assistive technologies may be difficult to accommodate in traditional schools.

Kemp uses four prostheses, and through his knowledge, experience, and persistence he has inspired many others to achieve their dreams. He has been active in the disability movement for more than 50 years, and he has worked with and served as a board member or leader of several non-profit organizations including the National Business & Disability Council, the United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Very Special Arts, HalfthePlanet Foundation, Independent Sector, The Abilities Fund, Inc., Disability Services Providers of America, Easter Seals, Goodwill Industries of America, and the American Association of People with Disabilities, which he co-founded in 1995. His service to federal and state governments includes appointments to the Medicaid Commission, the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities, and the New York State READY Commission.

His long, distinguished record of service has been recognized by many awards. In 1987, the Dole Foundation recognized him with its Special Tribute Award in recognition of his tireless work to secure the rights of people with disabilities, and in 2014, he was personally selected by former Senator Bob Dole to receive the Dole Leadership Prize from the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. In 2006, he received the Henry B. Betts Award from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and the American Association of People with Disabilities, which is widely regarded as the country’s most prestigious award recognizing disability service and leadership. The consulting firm Kemp started in the 1970s was among the first to work with organizations and corporations to implement disability employment laws, and since 2001, he has been a Principal of Powers, Pyles, Sutter & Verville, P.C., a law firm in Washington, DC, specializing in healthcare, rehabilitation, disability, higher education and tax-exempt organizations.