Former U.S. poet laureate encourages UMass Dartmouth graduates “to pass it on to another generation of Americans”

University celebrates arts and sciences students at Saturday ceremony

Three-term U.S. poet laureate Dr. Robert Pinsky offered the Commencement Address and received an honorary degree at this morning’s ceremony.

Today UMass Dartmouth celebrated the Class of 2016 at its College of Arts & Sciences Commencement ceremony at the University's Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial Amphitheater. More than 700 students earned their degrees at today’s Saturday ceremony. Nineteen PhDs were awarded. The University is celebrating its first graduating class since its ascension to Doctoral Research University earlier this year.

“The value of a UMass Dartmouth education is priceless, but its true impact will only be seen in the lives you lead as professionals and citizens after you leave here today,” UMass Dartmouth Interim Chancellor Randy Helm said. “I am not worried about you. You are too intellectually tough and resilient to be ruined by waltzes, chess, mechanical toys, smart phones, Instagram, or by whatever else modern times will throw at you. You are off to a great start.  Don’t let anybody tell you different.”

UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Victor Woolridge was present for today's ceremony and offered congratulatory remarks to the Class of 2016.

"We believe in the transformative power of public higher education, we believe in the University of Massachusetts and we believe in you," Chairman Wooldridge said. “Today marks a new and exciting chapter in your life. I hope the camaraderie and spirit of today and this strong connection always lives on.”

Three-term U.S. poet laureate Dr. Robert Pinsky offered the Commencement Address and received an honorary degree at this morning’s ceremony. Robert Pinsky served an unprecedented three terms as the nation's official poet. His Selected Poems was published in 2011. His previous books of poetry include Gulf MusicJersey RainThe Want Bone and The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996. His best-selling translation The Inferno of Dante was a Book-of-the-Month-Club Editor's Choice, and received both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. While serving as U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky founded The Favorite Poem Project, including the videos that can be seen at

“If you win a Nobel Prize, if you start a business that makes billions of dollars, if you discover wonderful cancer therapies, you are still somewhat of a failure unless you try to pass it on to another generation of Americans regardless of privilege, of family fortune, completely according to talent,” Dr. Pinsky said. "That is what you are charged with. You are the past. We are the past of the past. Whatever you do, keep in your mind that you are responsible for something I got from people who are no longer here. And when we’re gone that’s going to be your job. You can call it the future if you like. It’s equally appropriate to call it the past.”

Elizabeth Janson (PhD Educational Leadership and Policy Studies) of Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Elizabeth Janson is committed to transforming public education and providing youth with the resources they need. Elizabeth chose to pursue a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy for the program’s focus on social justice and how it addresses not only educational problems, but to understand how those educational problems are caused by policies outside of education. After graduation, she plans on using her doctorate to keep fighting to transform public education and work at the local, national, and international levels.

“We do not live in a world of impossibility,” Dr. Janson said. “We are not the stories untold. We are the stories to be told. Silence is not golden. I won’t be silenced. Will you?”

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“We do not live in a world of impossibility,” Dr. Janson said.

Yesterday UMass Dartmouth held two commencement ceremonies for its Charlton College of Business and for the multi-college combined ceremony of the College of Engineering, College of Nursing, College of Visual & Performing Arts, and School for Marine Science & Technology. More than 1,200 students earned their degrees over each of those two ceremonies. This Monday, UMass Law will celebrate its graduating class at the Main Auditorium on UMass Dartmouth’s Main Campus.

The UMass Dartmouth Class of 2016 is made up of 2,086 students, representing 214 Massachusetts communities, 22 states, and 26 countries. The top five communities of UMass Dartmouth's graduating class are New Bedford, Fall River, Dartmouth, Boston, and Taunton. University officials expect to award 32 PhDs and 11 DNPs (Doctor of Nursing Practice). The PhDs include a record number in educational leadership and policy studies, as well as degrees in nursing, biomedical engineering and technology, electrical engineering, and marine sciences and technology.

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More than 700 students earned their degrees at today’s Saturday ceremony. Nineteen PhDs were awarded.

UMass Dartmouth's 2016 Commencement ceremonies will take place May 13-16. All of the ceremonies, except for the UMass School of Law, will be held in the University's Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial Amphitheater. For a full schedule and up-to-date info on UMass Dartmouth’s 2016 Commencement, visit Each Commencement ceremony can be watched via live stream.

UMass Dartmouth was elevated to Doctoral University – Higher Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education following the release of its final 2015 classification in February. The only Bay State research university located south of Boston distinguishes itself as a vibrant public university actively engaged in personalized teaching and innovative research, and acting as an intellectual catalyst for regional economic, social, and cultural development. UMass Dartmouth's mandate to serve its community is realized through countless partnerships, programs, and other outreach efforts to engage the community, and apply its knowledge to help address local issues and empower others to facilitate change for all.

College of Arts and Sciences, News and Public Information, Research, School of Education