Florida Atlantic University - University Communications

Spring Commencement Ceremonies to Feature Record Number of Graduates

On Friday, May 5, more than 1,800 graduates—members of FAU's largest graduating class ever—will join FAU's faculty, staff and administrators at the spring 2006 commencement ceremonies. If you can't be there in person be sure to watch it live at www.fau.edu/webcast.

The day’s events will be broken into three segments:

  • The Morning ceremony (9 a.m.) will spotlight the the College of Education, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
  • The Afternoon program (2 p.m.) will feature the College of Architecture, Urban and Public Affairs; the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters and the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College
  • The Evening event (6 p.m.) will highlight the College of Business and College of Engineering and Computer Science.

All ceremonies will take place in the FAU Arena.

FAU alumna and Office Depot Executive Vice President and CFO Patricia McKay will be inducted into the FAU National Alumni Association Hall of Fame at the evening ceremony. The following graduates will also receive awards: Michelle Pelletier will receive the Kenneth R. Williams Leadership Award, Rosanna Tursi will receive the Kenneth R. Williams Scholarship and Daniel Falcao will receive the Caring Award.

The 2,447 members of the graduating class (some elect not to attend the graduation ceremonies) reflect the wide range of students who pursue degrees at FAU:

  • The oldest graduate is 71 years old.
  • The youngest is 19 years old.
  • More than 110 graduates are over the age of 50 and 23 of them are over the age of 60.
  • A total of 125 graduates have GPAs of at least 4.0.
  • More than 80 countries will be presented by the graduating class and 11 graduates will also celebrate their birthdays on May 5.

The class includes a number of graduates with exceptional stories. Among them are the following three individuals profiled by Andrew LaPlant, information and events coordinator for Academic Affairs:

Pursuing Her Vision

Sherry Morgenstern, who dreamt of a career in photography, will receive her B.F.A. in studio art some five years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).

With the preliminary symptom of MS being loss of vision, Morgenstern was devastated. “As a photographer, losing my vision meant the end of the world to me,” she said. “Not knowing whether or not I would be able to take a picture again made me fear the worst.”

Once diagnosed, Morgenstern dropped all of her classes except a large-dimension Sculpture class. Every day became a new challenge and sometimes even getting out of bed was difficult, since the disease can cause muscular weakness. The stress of final exam week even triggered an MS attack.

Instead of crawling into her darkroom, she overcame these challenges viewing things in a new way, literally and figuratively. Five years later, she has her vision back. Morgenstern has learned how to take care of her MS and is managing a healthy life. She now uses her vision as an artist.

“I have become more aware of the beauty in everyday life,” said Morgenstern. “As a result the new vision brought my photographic development to a new level. When I healed from the first attack, I knew I was never going to take anything for granted again. I feel privileged to be able to attend class and earn a degree.”

The 24-year-old graduate notes that every experience now is taken with admiration. The ability to gain knowledge, experience and meeting new people are all a part of her day. She credits her family, friends and her education at FAU to keeping her focused both personally and academically.

“The support of the professors, especially Dr. James Novak, drove me to do my best and helped me to develop as a photographer,” said Morgenstern. “This lead to my understanding that life is bigger than being a student. My future after I graduate from FAU is bright."

Sharing Experiences

Rose Hores will graduate with an M.A. in anthropology after an educational journey that took her to the Amazon and never-before-documented research on monkey behavior. Hores began her studies in Ecuador in the field of archeology, but eventually moved into anthropology. When pursuing a school for her graduate work, FAU offered her the best educational opportunity and was close enough to her ailing father in Sarasota to allow her to spend time with him.

Her graduate worked focused on what Dr. Michael Harris, chair of the Anthropology Department, calls "groundbreaking research" studying howler and Capuchin monkeys. The study would require research in the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but would also mean months away from her father. After talking it over with her parents, she decided to head to the rainforests for the three months last summer.

The research camp in Rio Blanco, Ecuador, was exciting, yet challenging, according to Hores. “I’d be in the forest for days, away from the base camp and worry not only about documenting the monkeys, but about survival,” said Hores. “At one point, the three-person tent got so damaged by the terrain, it became a two-person tent.”

Hores documented the behavior of nearly 200 howler monkeys and 20 Capuchin monkeys observing how close the two species were to human interaction and if it affected habitation. During her research, she found a previously undocumented sub-species of Capuchin. While she was in the rainforest, word came that Hores’ father was becoming very sick. She was able make it back to Sarasota to share her research experiences and descriptions of the Amazon with her father before he died.

Hores said her FAU experience has been extremely positive and would have been much tougher without the support of the department. "The professors at FAU are outstanding," said Hores. "They have been incredibly helpful during my time here and maintaining a positive outlook. I obviously couldn’t have done this without their support."

Finding a Cure

Gian Franco Sferrazza, who was born in Panama and came to the United States at the age of 19, knew he wanted to make a difference in the world after feeling powerless as he watched his grandmother become critically ill. He dreamt of one day becoming a researcher in the field of medical science.

Sferrazza came to FAU knowing he had to not only learn to live in a new environment, but also learn a new language and culture. He adapted well. While Sferrazza was an undergraduate, he was a part of numerous honor societies and graduated summa cum laude (3.90 grade point average or above) in molecular biology. He achieved all this while working as a research assistant in FAU’s laboratories.

Sferrazza continued to work as a research assistant while obtaining his master’s degree in biomedical science. His primary research is associated with protein extraction and molecular analyses of heart development.
The 26-year old assisted in publishing two papers in Molecular Biology of the Cell and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. His work impressed Dr. Charles Weissmann and Dr. Corinne Lasmezas at Scripps Florida, and they offered him a full-time position.

“Working with great professors, such as Dr. Larry Lemanski, provided me the experience needed to obtain an excellent research position,” said Sferrazza. “I now work for a world-class company doing what I want to be doing. I think that is a successful experience.”
Sferrazza plans on pursuing a Ph.D. after he gains more research knowledge. He currently is contributing to a cure for mad-cow disease.

“I learned so many things, met many different types of people and have become a success story,” said Sferrazza. “I don’t know if this could have happened at another university, but it’s hard to believe the experience could have been any better.”


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