Knowledge is Power, Gratitude and Responsibility for 2024 Doctoral Graduates

'Success purchased through silence is success not worth having'

The cupola above the Wilbur Cross building.

(Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Words of triumph and responsibility resounded through the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts as the University of Connecticut conferred its highest degree on the doctoral candidates of 2024.

Entering in formal caps and gowns accompanied by bombastic fanfare, the graduates’ procession hearkened to the medieval academy, as did Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School Kent Holsinger’s opening remarks.

“Knowledge is power,” Holsinger said, quoting Francis Bacon’s famous statement of 1597. Bacon likely meant that having and judiciously sharing knowledge was a cornerstone of influence. Holsinger added that in order for this to remain true today, we must live in a society that values reason and truth. He charged this year’s graduates to use their skills to uphold those societal values.

Ruth J. Simmons, former president of Brown University, Smith College, and Prairie View A & M University, current distinguished presidential fellow at Rice University, and the ceremony’s honorary degree recipient, went further, exhorting the newly minted Ph.D.s to use their education to bring compassion and generosity to challenges, and embrace the humanity of others while continuing the quest for truth and understanding.

“Success purchased through silence is success not worth having,” Simmons said.

Overwhelming gratitude was the theme for Brenda Milla ’24 Ph.D., who gave the student address. She reminded the students that nothing about their success happened in a vacuum, and nothing should be taken for granted. Graduate students are afforded the opportunity to investigate new areas of knowledge, to travel to hear about other’s work in their field and present their own, and meet and interact with leaders in their field.

Milla, the daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college and graduate student who began her higher education career at UConn Stamford, recalled how family, friends, and mentors were critical for her own success and that of her fellow students.

“We didn’t climb this mountain alone. Our ascent was supported by an invaluable network of peers, mentors and family. To our advisors and mentors: thank you for seeing our potential, providing us with patience and insight, pushing us beyond our limits to explore, question, and contribute meaningfully to our fields.”