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McChrystal Leads Way at UMB Commencement

It takes a general to lead an army and the graduates of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) were in good hands at their 2013 commencement program on May 17. Stanley A. McChrystal, MS, MA, a retired four-star general who was the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and prior to that elite special operations in Iraq, served as keynote speaker.

With doses of humor, humility, and plain truth, McChrystal captivated the audience of graduates from UMB's six professional schools and Graduate School. He recalled his own graduation "when I was paroled from West Point 37 years ago." He remembered wearing a full-length military jacket made of wool despite the heat and white cotton trousers. And he remembered a rebellious friend of his, a football player, "who underneath wore red bikini underwear. Of course, it rained, the white trousers became transparent, and spectators up to 300 yards away could see the skimpy red briefs stretched tightly across my friend's broad backside. But the laughter that day remains an almost sacred memory."

But McChrystal said he recalled nothing from that day's graduation speaker, so he gave his audience permission "to nod off" during his remarks. But they didn't, and applauded several of the retired general's lines, especially when he compared commencement addresses to war. "They seem like a good idea at the time, but when it drags on too long everyone longs for a conclusion, and only a few people remember what started it in the first place."

He urged the more than 1,500 members of UMB's Class of 2013 "to have a sense of responsibility to others" and not to overlook the "wonderful opportunities provided you" as an educated person in this country.

McChrystal and University President Jay A. Perman, MD, (pictured) began the event by leading the graduates and faculty in a festive procession several blocks from the downtown campus to 1st Mariner Arena for the ceremony.

They were not the only people of note involved in UMB's commencement.

Robert M. Bell, JD, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, and Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) at the Food and Drug Administration, received honorary degrees.



When Bell was designated chief judge of the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, in 1996, he became the only active judge to have served at least four years on all four levels of the Maryland judiciary, and the first African-American to be named the state's chief jurist. As student council president at Dunbar High School, Bell was arrested for demonstrating against segregation, which led to the historic Bell v. Maryland decision.

"There I was, a 16-year-old defendant in a civil disobedience case," Bell recalls, "watching a legal battle unfold between extraordinary lawyers, including future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on my side and future chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, Robert Murphy, on the other side.

"No one in the room would have guessed that Robert Murphy and I would go on to sit on that same Court of Appeals together, or that one day, I would replace him as chief judge. They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and I guess they're right."

Under Woodcock's leadership, CDER has streamlined review processes for new and generic drugs while improving standards for quality, safety, and effectiveness. She oversaw approval of the first biotechnology-based treatments for multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis, diseases that affect 2.1 million and 70,000 people, respectively, throughout the world.

The UMB students were led into the arena by Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean emeritus of the School of Nursing, who was just the second honorary university marshal at UMB since 2007.

Other honorary marshals included Elaine Romberg, PhD, and Norman Capra, PhD, MS, retiring professors at the School of Dentistry, and Julianne Oktay, PhD, MSW, a retiring professor at the School of Social Work.

Perman sent the graduates away on a high note, urging them to serve mankind and "make us as proud of you in the future as we are of you today."

Story by Chris Zang

To read the advice for the students offered by the platform party, click here.

And, for more about those in the event, click here.
Posting Date: 05/17/2013
Contact Name: Steve Berberich
Contact Phone: 410-706-0023
Contact Email: sberb001@umaryland.edu