News 2013: UMass Dartmouth holds Graduate Commencement ceremony

News 2013: UMass Dartmouth holds Graduate Commencement ceremony
UMass Dartmouth holds Graduate Commencement ceremony

The Hon. Phillip Rapoza, Chief Justice of Mass. Court of Appeals, delivers graduate address, receives honorary Doctor of Law; Moment of Silence honors victims of Boston Marathon bombings; Torch Relay announced to raise funds for One Fund

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth kicked off the celebration of its 113th Commencement with the Graduate ceremony sending 576 master's, doctoral and law students into the world. 

With the ceremony moved into the Main Auditorium to avoid forecast thunder and lighting, the focus remained on the students and their achievements, including a few firsts, including: the first all-UMass Law graduate to pass the Massachusetts bar exam; and the first Doctor of Mathematics Education, Dr. Corey Brady. 

The spotlight was also on graduate speaker Valeria Souza, who earned her doctorate in Luso-African-Brazilian Studies this year at the same university where she earned her bachelor's and master's in Portuguese. 

Dr. Souza's remarks spoke to the strength of the University community, which was proved in light of recent events: "What kept me here for ten years, obtaining three degrees from this institution--is the incredible sense of community I have always felt on campus. I know that I am not alone in considering UMD my 'second home, for over the years my colleagues have shared with me how this university provides them with an unbreakable sense of community and belonging." 

The ceremony also honored the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings with a Moment of Silence observed by more than 1,500 attendees. 

In another example of the University community's desire to understand our past in order to move forward, student leaders announced that they are organizing a Torch Relay to benefit the One Fund and show support for all those impacted by the Boston Marathon attack. 

During the Torch Relay, students will take turns passing the torch at each one of the 55 miles from the UMass Dartmouth campus to the Boylston Street marathon memorial site in Boston. 

"The real UMass Dartmouth is about strength, spirit and community, and this event will bring together students, alumni and residents throughout Massachusetts,'' said relay organizer Joseph Melo, who will be receiving his diploma Sunday .  "Our campus has been profoundly affected by the Marathon tragedy, and we are proud that we are coming together as one community to support the One Fund." 

This event, tentatively scheduled for the weekend following Independence Day, will showcase the spirit of UMass Dartmouth students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends, while bringing together the community to support victims of the attack. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the One Fund. 

This will be the third Torch Relay in UMass Dartmouth history. The first was held in 1965 to rally against state legislation that would have downsized what was then Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute. The second Torch Relay was held in 1982 and organized by then-sophomore and now State Senator Mark Montigny (D- New Bedford) to gain equal support from the state budget at what was then Southeastern Massachusetts University. 

"The Torch Relay has always been a powerful rallying tool for the entire university community in times of trial or concern.  I am proud to again be associated with the organization of a third Torch Relay which this time will not only  illustrate the real character of UMass Dartmouth's students to the world but will also aid the victims of the horrific Boston Marathon bombing.  I am certain that this walk will play a positive role in helping the entire state heal from the tragic events of the last month," said Senator Montigny, a member of the track team at the time, who led off the relay. 

The July Torch Relay will begin at the UMass Dartmouth campus and end at the marathon memorial in Boston.  Participants are being recruited now to take part in all or specific segments of the 55-mile journey to Boston.  All attendees are invited and encouraged to participate in the final segment of the relay through Boston to the Boylston Street marathon memorial site. 

More about the Graduate Commencement honoree and speaker   

The Hon. Phillip Rapoza 
Chief Justice, Massachusetts Appeals Court 
Honorary Doctor of Law 

The Honorable Phillip Rapoza serves as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, marking the latest chapter of his long career in public service. A former assistant district attorney in Suffolk and Bristol Counties, Rapoza was appointed to the bench in 1992 and served as a trial judge in both the Fall River District Court and the Massachusetts Superior Court. He was appointed to the Appeals Court in 1998, and in 2006, he was named Chief Justice. 

In addition to his judicial service in Massachusetts, Chief Justice Rapoza has been a leader in the field of international justice. Between 2003 and 2005, he took an unpaid leave of absence from the Appeals Court and served as an international judge on a UN-backed war crimes tribunal in East Timor, conducting trials in cases involving crimes against humanity and other serious offenses committed during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of that country. He subsequently lived and worked in Haiti, where he headed a UN criminal justice advisory team. Most recently, in 2012, Chief Justice Rapoza was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to serve as a reserve judge on the Supreme Court Chamber of the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia. That court was established to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of as many as two million Cambodians during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. 

Rapoza is a member of the US Council of Chief Judges of State Courts of Appeal, a Life Fellow of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, and serves as President of the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation, which is headquartered in Switzerland. He has received a number of awards for his work both in the US and abroad, including the President's Award from the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Alexander George Teitz Memorial Award from the Touro Synagogue Foundation, the Brazilian Medal of International Merit, and membership in the Republic of Portugal's Order of Prince Henry the Navigator with the rank of Commander. 

A Dartmouth native, Chief Justice Rapoza earned his BA magna cum laude from Yale College and his JD from Cornell Law School.