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Commencement ceremonies take place May 14 at Illinois

Jeff Unger, News Bureau


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 135th commencement of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be held in two ceremonies May 14 at the Assembly Hall, 1800 S. First St., Champaign.

The speaker at both ceremonies will be Thomas M. Siebel, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Siebel Systems Inc. He and three others will receive honorary degrees at the ceremonies.

At the 10:30 a.m. ceremony, candidates in the colleges of Applied Life Studies, Communications, Law, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine; the Institute of Aviation; the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations; the School of Social Work; and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science will receive degrees.

Candidates in the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering; and Fine and Applied Arts will receive their degrees at the 2 p.m. ceremony.

Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. for the morning ceremony and at 1 p.m. for the afternoon ceremony. After all students and their guests are seated, the remaining seats will be available to the public. Shuttle buses also will stop at various locations on campus, including Assembly Hall, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All students who have earned bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees and advanced certificates during the preceding year are honored at the annual commencement.

Siebel was presented with the U. of I. Presidential Award and Medallion in 2001. A corporate gift from Siebel Systems in 2000 established the Siebel Scholars Fellowship Program at the nation’s top 11 computer science and business colleges, including the computer science department at the Urbana campus.

In 1999, Siebel donated $32 million to the Urbana campus to help construct the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science.

“Tom Siebel is among our most truly accomplished alumni,” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “Not only did he create and build Siebel Systems into a leading provider of business-applications software, but through his Siebel Scholars program he allows some of our most talented students in computer science and business to address society’s most pressing issues, such as stem-cell research.

“And his philanthropic endeavors touch the lives of thousands across the nation – from helping teenage methamphetamine users break their addiction to guiding national park visitors to a better appreciation of natural wonders. We know his address will show our graduates that doing well and doing good are pieces of the same fabric.”

Siebel, who founded Siebel Systems Inc. in 1993, earned three degrees from the Urbana campus: a bachelor’s in history (1975), a master’s in business administration (1983) and a master’s in computer science (1985). He was recognized by BusinessWeek in 2001 as one of the top 25 managers in the world. He will be awarded an honorary doctor of engineering degree during Commencement.

The others who will receive honorary degrees during the 10:30 a.m. ceremony:

Julian Bond, the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); honorary degree of doctor of humane letters. Bond has been an active participant in the movements for civil rights and economic justice. As an activist who has faced jail for his convictions, as a veteran of more than 20 years service in the Georgia General Assembly, as a university professor, and as a writer, he has been on the cutting edge of social change since 1960.

Elected in 1965 to the Georgia House of Representatives, Bond was prevented from taking his seat by members who objected to his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was re-elected to his own vacant seat and un-seated again, and seated only after a third election and a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court.

He has narrated numerous documentaries, including the Academy Award winning “A Time For Justice” and the prize-winning and critically acclaimed series “Eyes On The Prize.” The holder of 23 honorary degrees, he is a Distinguished Professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and a professor of history at the University of Virginia.

Elaine Fuchs, laboratory head of mammalian cell biology and development at Rockefeller University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; honorary degree of doctor of science.

Fuchs, who earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry (with highest distinction in the curriculum) at the U. of I. in 1972, studies the cell biology, genetics and development of skin and hair. Her basic research on the molecular mechanics underlying development and differentiation of these tissues addresses one of the fundamental questions underlying stem cell biology: How do stem cells “know” their fate? When scientists understand the factors that determine whether a stem cell develops into a heart cell rather than a skin cell or another type of body cell, they will be better equipped to design cell-based treatments for specific medical conditions.

Unlike stem cells for many other tissues, skin stem cells from an adult human or animal can be cultured easily in the lab (so easily, in fact, that the process is used in treating burn victims). With these cultures Fuchs and her colleagues study how the multipotent (able to differentiate into cells of the same tissue) stem cells of the skin of humans, rodents and other mammals give rise to the epidermis and hair follicles.

Fuchs and her colleagues also developed a new method to track and isolate skin and hair stem cells, a technique that may also be valuable in searching for stem cells that produce the cells of the heart, pancreas and other specific body tissues.

Burt Rutan, president and chief executive officer of Scaled Composites, LLC; honorary degree of doctor of engineering.

By the time he was 8 years old, Rutan was designing and building model airplanes. His first solo flight in an airplane was in an Aeronca Champ in 1959, when he was 16. In 1965 he graduated third in his class from California Polytechnic University with an aeronautical engineering degree.

From 1965 to 1972 Rutan worked for the U.S. Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base as a flight test project engineer. Shortly after, he became director of the Bede Test Center for Bede Aircraft, in Newton, Kan., a position he held until 1974.

Rutan struck out on his own in June of 1974 with the creation of the Rutan Aircraft Factory in the Mojave Desert, where he designed and developed prototypes for a number of aircraft, mostly homebuilt.

Over the years Rutan has designed hundreds of aircraft, including the now-famous Voyager, which was piloted by Dick, his brother, and Jeana Yeager in 1986 on a
record-breaking nine-day non-stop flight around the world. He made headlines again in 2004 with SpaceShipOne, which became the first craft of its type to reach space in June of that year.

The alumni association will present four awards at the commencement ceremonies:

Receiving the Alumni Achievement Award:

Susan L. Lindquist, the first female director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious science institutes in the nation. The molecular biologist is known for her bold and creative thinking, her drive to integrate research among several disciplines and, as one scientist described it, “the elegance and diversity of her experimental approaches.” Lindquist’s research centers on how the incorrect folding of proteins can be inherited and result in such disorders as cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Among her many honors, she was selected as one of the Top 50 Most Important Women in Sciences by Discover Magazine. She earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 1971 from the U. of I. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Hon. John W. McDonald, a 1994 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has proven to be a major force in international development and peace building. Over his 40-year career as a diplomat, he has been appointed ambassador twice each by presidents Carter and Reagan to represent the United States at various United Nations world conferences; has held U.S. State Department assignments around the globe; and has written books on negotiation and conflict resolution. McDonald, who has also served as a professor of law, is the chairman and co-founder of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, which focuses on resolving national and international ethnic conflicts. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the U. of I. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1943 and a juris doctor degree in 1946 from the U. of I. College of Law.

Receiving the Distinguished Service Award:

Robert C. and Alice Curtis Campbell, the founders of the real-estate firm, The Robert Campbell Co., have donated generously to their alma mater by maintaining the old and bringing in the new. They helped raise funds for new bells in Altgeld Hall; funded Campbell Hall for Public Telecommunication; and most recently, were the lead donors for the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, which opens in May. The Campbells also have provided the lead gift to establish the Michael Aiken Endowed Chair, created the Alice Curtis Campbell Endowed Chair at the College of Law and supported the Matthews Scholars program, as well as encouraged individual students. Robert C. Campbell received a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the U. of I. College of Business in 1954; Alice Curtis Campbell earned a juris doctor degree in 1943 from the U. of I. College of Law.

Receiving the Alumni Humanitarian Award:

Eugene N. Hamilton, retired chief judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, has served his community in exceptional ways. By day he ruled on the bench, and by night he created community programs to attack the roots of the judicial problems he handled, such as juvenile delinquency. Within the court system, Hamilton, known as “the people’s judge,” created many programs as well, including a domestic violence unit and a special juvenile drug court. He and his wife, Virginia David Hamilton, a 1958 graduate of the U. of I. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, have parented nine biological children and more than 40 foster youth. Hamilton earned a bachelor’s degree in general curriculum from the U. of I. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1955 and a juris doctor degree in 1959 from the U. of I. College of Law.

All graduating students and their guests are invited to a reception hosted by university President B. Joseph White and Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. May 14 in the gardens of the president’s house, 711 W. Florida Ave., Urbana. Academic attire is encouraged.

The first floor of the main library will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. May 13 and May 14 for visitors and students to view the University Honors Bronze Tablets.

For information on additional commencement ceremonies of individual U. of I. units, visit: