College passes on grad speaker

The graduating class of 2003 will not be addressed by a guest speaker at its commencement ceremony, according to the President’s office.

In place of the speaker, the senior class and College President R. Barbara Gitenstein have chosen Reverend DeForest B. Soaries Jr. and Marilyn vos Savant to be presented with honorary degrees at the commencement ceremony.

The change was made because more people have the opportunity to address the class when there is no single speaker.

The senior class provided Gitenstein with a list of candidates for the honor last spring, according to the President’s Office.

Some students, however, feel that graduation will be somewhat incomplete without a guest speaker.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Stephen DiStefano, senior history secondary education major, said. “I think they should have at least asked us for our opinion on it. I don’t think they got much student input (before making the decision).”

Allison Durar, senior elementary education major, agreed.

“It’s disappointing,” she said. “Every year you look forward to hearing who the guest speaker will be,” she said. “This is our only chance to graduate and we’re missing out.”

Some students, however, feel that the money spent on a guest speaker could be put to better use.

“I think it makes sense,” Chris Larthey, senior business information systems management, said. “They pay too much to bring in someone to talk. The speakers in the past haven’t been very good anyway, so maybe it’s better to not have one at all.”

Former SGA president Chris Portera had similar views. “I can see where Dr. Gitenstein is coming from. It’s a lot of money for a 10-to-15-minute oration.”

Portera said that he knows many students look forward to getting something special from the guest speaker’s speech. However, he said, this is something students can receive in many other places.

“Bill Cosby was just here,” he said. “I think it makes more sense to spend money on something that is two or three hours and that would reach a lot more people.”

The College Web site provided information about the two individuals who will receive honors in the speaker’s place.

Soaries will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters. He serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln gardens in Somerset and helped form nonprofit organizations to serve the community.

Soaries, under the appointment of former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, served as N.J.’s 30th Secretary of State, where he helped preserve New Jersey. and its citizenry through arts history and culture.

Vos Savant will receive an honorary doctorate of letter. Known for her five-year stint in the Guiness Book of World Records under “Highest I.Q.” for both childhood and adult scores, she has written the “Ask Marilyn” column in the national Sunday magazine Parade since 1986.

She also serves as chief financial officer at Jarvik Heart, Inc., a manufacturer of artificial hearts for use in the treatment of heart failure.

This year’s graduation ceremony is scheduled to take place on Friday, May 16, at 9:30 a.m., in Lions Stadium.