History Commencement Ceremony 2007
Posted: May 24, 2007
More than 160 of the 250 graduating students participated in the commencement ceremony on May 18, 2007, at Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas campus. Eleven students from the department's graduate program received their PhD and 14 received their Master's degree. Three graduate students who earned their Master's joined the faculty on stage: Creighton Chandler III, Claire Elizabeth Gherini, and Patricia Alison Pearson.
Grand Marshall and University Distinguished Teaching Professor Howard Miller introduced the graduation speaker and his former student, Ms. Nancy S. Footer, Vice Chancellor and General Counsel of the University of North Texas System. She assured the students that majoring in history would prove more advantageous than they could possibly imagine, no matter what career field they went into. She also stressed that the analytical thinking and writing skills they had accomplished in the process would also prove fruitful and fulfilling throughout their lifetimes.
"Studying history teaches you values, how to come up with solutions that are practical, because you understand how to work in a broader context. History is the study of the human condition. People are at the center of all events, and you will always be intrigued by what makes people act a certain way," Footer said.
"As a history major you learn how individuals are part of something larger, and that on the whole, it is a cultural, intellectual place we find ourselves in. We realize that this situation has happened before, and as a result, we know how to put it into context for the present moment."
She remarked that throughout her career as a lawyer and educational administrator, she consistently saw how her history degree had given her an advantage. Because she had learned critical and analytical thinking skills as a history student, she was able to offer her clients a solution that worked for everyone involved.
Her second major point to the students was for them to acknowledge the debt of gratitude to all those who had made this accomplishment possible—from parents to grandparents, faculty to friends, and mentors. She encouraged the graduates to remember to be grateful to whoever gave them assistance along the way.
Thirdly, she passed on what her own father said to her at her graduation, "Get out there and have a good time. Have fun at work!" Interestingly, she told the audience that her father did not remember telling her that at her graduation, which brought much laughter from the crowd. (Ms. Footer’s parents were also in attendance at the graduation ceremony.) She encouraged parents to continue to offer advice to their children, “because even though it may look like we aren’t listening, we really are, and some of it actually sticks.”
History Honors Program students were introduced, and the department's annual best thesis prizes were awarded. Nominated by faculty members, Andrew Jay Paul was awarded the Lewis L. Gould Prize for the Best Thesis in the Study of American History. Paul's supervising professors were Drs. H.W. Brands and Laurie Green.
Amanda Elise Lipsitt was awarded the John Ferguson/Claudio Prize for the Best Thesis in the Study of Non-U.S. History. Her supervising professors were Drs. Virginia Burnett and Susan Deans-Smith. Both students were given framed certificates for their accomplishments.
Other students' accomplishments were celebrated by asking them to stand. History majors elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and considered the most prestigious honor society, were recognized. History graduates who participated in the Beta Alpha Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the National Honor Society in History, stood along with their co-presidents, David Gibson and Kathleen Santos.
Athlete Poston Pritchett of the university's nationally-ranked swim team was elected captain and had the highest grade point average on the team. He was also elected chair of the student-athlete advisory council.
Normandy Scholars were recognized for their participation in the Normandy Scholar Program on World War II (NSP), a study abroad program administered by the department. After 14 weeks during the spring semester at UT studying the causes and origins of the war, they travel together for a three-week European tour of WWII sites. Three of the five NSP faculty are history professors.
One of the History Department's distinguished alumni, Robert Watkins, watched his son Jarratt Watkins graduate. Watkins is the assistant director of admissions for UT's International and Study Abroad Offices. He earned his Bachelor's degree in 1973, and his Master of Arts in 1976.
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Ms. Nancy S. Footer's Commencement Speech (PDF - 111K)
Short Bio on Ms. Nancy S. Footer (PDF - 33K)