Commencement

Tune In: NIH Director Francis Collins serenades graduates at SMU Commencement 2017

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the National Institutes of Health who may be best known for leading the Human Genome Project (HGP), was the featured speaker – and a featured singer – during SMU’s 102nd all-University Commencement ceremony, which took place May 20, 2017 in Moody Coliseum.

“You need to be prepared for dramatic change,” Collins told the graduates. “Whatever the field, you can’t imagine what it will look like in 10 or 20 years Your path will not always be smooth. Doors you were counting on may not open. Do you have the strength & foundation to deal with that?”

Dr. Collins – whose own personal research efforts led to the isolation of the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome – received the Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from SMU during the ceremony.

Also receiving honorary degrees Saturday were Francis Halzen, Nancy Nasher and E.P. Sanders. Halzen’s work in particle physics detection has taken the study of neutrinos beyond the Milky Way galaxy and into deep space, leading to new understanding of astronomical phenomena including black holes, supernovas and galaxy formation. Nasher, a business leader, lawyer and philanthropist, has dedicated her professional and personal life to the betterment of Dallas. Sanders is an internationally respected New Testament scholar responsible for major contributions to studies of Jesus and the Apostle Paul and their relationships to the Judaism of their day. He is credited with prompting the re-evaluation of prejudicial views of Judaism that often characterized earlier biblical scholarship, resulting in improved Jewish-Christian relations.

“Never be so confident in yourself that you can’t see what’s around you. Be a skeptic,” Collins said. “Clarify your definition of success. You’ve succeeded, but at what? What is it we’re attaching ourselves to? Are you spending your time on ‘résumé virtues’ or ‘eulogy virtues’? Résumé virtues won’t help you with relationships. They may distract you from thinking deeply about character, about life & its meaning.”

Collins concluded his Commencement address with a song, which brought the graduates, faculty and family members to their feet.

> Find the full story at SMU News

SMU’s 2017 Commencement: Events at a glance

Commencement graduate shot

SMU celebrates its 102nd May Commencement Convocation May 19-20, 2017, with events for the entire SMU community. Mark this post for major Commencement Week event links at a glance:

Reminder: Moody Coliseum clear-bag policy in effect

Watch the Baccalaureate and Commencement ceremonies live at smu.edu/live

Reminder: Moody Coliseum clear-bag policy in effect for May Commencement

Clear handbag

An example of the type of bag allowed into Moody Coliseum under gameday safety rules. The clear-bag policy is in effect for May Commencement as well.

As faculty, staff members, students, parents and visitors prepare for SMU’s 102nd May Commencement Convocation, don’t forget that Moody Coliseum’s clear-bag safety policy is in effect for the ceremony and restricts items that may be carried into the venue.

The only bags permitted will be those made of clear plastic, vinyl or PVC which do not exceed 12-by-6-by-12 inches, one-gallon clear plastic freezer bags (Ziploc or similar), or small clutch bags (about the size of a hand) with or without a strap. The clutch does not have to be clear and may be carried separately or within an approved plastic bag.

The Office of the Registrar has distributed reminders about the policy to graduating seniors and their families. Items that are medically necessary and do not fit the clear-bag policy will be evaluated individually.

Things that visitors normally carry in pockets can still come into the coliseum in pockets – such as keys and cell phones.

The following items are prohibited from entering Moody Coliseum:

  • Animals (except licensed service animals)
  • Backpacks
  • Banners
  • Binocular cases
  • Briefcases
  • Camera bags
  • Cans
  • Cinch bags
  • Computer bags
  • Coolers
  • Diaper bags
  • Fanny packs
  • Firearms
  • Flags
  • Glass bottles
  • Guns
  • Inflated balloons
  • Knives of any size and type
  • Laser pointers
  • Luggage
  • Noisemakers
  • Purses larger than a small clutch
  • Radios
  • Seat cushions with zippers, pockets or compartments
  • Selfie sticks
  • Signs
  • Stun guns
  • Throwing objects
  • Umbrellas (unless threat of rain or raining)
  • Weapons

> Find more information on guest security, prohibited items and May Commencement

Four honorary degree recipients to participate in public symposia during SMU Commencement Week 2017

SMU will award honorary degrees to four prestigious leaders in science, theology and the arts at the All-University Commencement Ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 20, in Moody Coliseum.

Francis S. Collins, Francis Halzen, Nancy Nasher and E.P. Sanders each will be celebrated in the days leading to the ceremony with symposia and speaking engagements, summarized below:

Francis S. CollinsFrancis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., has been director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, overseeing the work of the largest institutional supporter of biomedical research in the world. But he may be best known for leading the Human Genome Project, a 13-year international effort to map and sequence the 3 billion letters in human DNA.

As NIH director, he has helped launch major research initiatives to advance the use of precision medicine for more tailored healthcare, to increase our understanding of the neural networks of the brain to improve treatments for brain diseases, and to identify areas of cancer research that are most ripe for acceleration to improve cancer prevention and treatment. His personal research efforts led to the isolation of the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

As an innovative evolutionary geneticist and a devout Christian, Collins also has gained fame for his writings on the integration of logic and belief.

Collins received his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Yale University, and his M.D. degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. As an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007 from President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Science in 2009.

For his dramatic successes as a gene hunter, his support for biomedical research on a vast scale, and his leadership of one of the most significant scientific undertaking in modern history – the Human Genome Project – Collins will receive the Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from SMU.

Collins also will deliver the commencement address.

A symposium focused on Collins’ life and work is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, May 19, in Crum Auditorium, Collins Executive Education Center. Collins will join these panel members in discussing:

  • Emerging advances in biomedical research, with Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Pia Vogel, professor of biological sciences, SMU
  • Innovation and translational science, with Steven C. Currall, provost and vice president for academic affairs, SMU

Francis HalzenFrancis Halzen’s contributions to the study of particle astrophysics might be compared to the influence of astronomer Galileo Galilei’s 17th-century perfection of the telescope: Both enabled unprecedented closer observation of the Universe. Halzen’s vision, initiative and leadership have led to the development and construction of the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory, where he is principle investigator, and where the first ultra-high-energy neutrinos were detected in 2013.

Halzen’s work in particle physics detection has taken the study of neutrinos beyond the Milky Way galaxy and into deep space, leading to new understanding of astronomical phenomena including black holes, supernovas and galaxy formation.

Halzen is the Hilldale and Gregory Breit Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the director of the Institute for Particle Physics Research. He received the 2015 Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize from the European Physical Society, the 2015 Balzan Prize and the 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award. Halzen received Master’s and Ph.D. degrees, as well as an agrégé de l’enseignement supérieur (a qualification for teaching in higher education) from the University of Louvain in Belgium.

For his pioneering efforts toward construction of the IceCube observatory and his extraordinary role in opening a new observational window on the universe, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer the degree Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Halzen will give a public lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 18, in Dallas Hall’s McCord Auditorium. A reception will precede the lecture at 5 p.m. in Dallas Hall rotunda. Organizers are offering a special welcome to students from Adamson High School’s “Living Physicist Program” and area high school teachers and students who participate in the QuarkNet program.

Nancy A. NasherNancy A. Nasher, a business leader, lawyer and philanthropist, has dedicated her professional and personal life to the betterment of Dallas. She holds degrees from Princeton University and Duke University School of Law. As president and co-owner of NorthPark Center, a premier shopping destination noted for excellence in retail and architectural design, Ms. Nasher has seamlessly integrated art into public spaces. Her vision of public engagement with the arts as embodied in NorthPark Center, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and her contributions to local arts organizations has been transformative for Dallas, and continues through her deep support and advocacy for all facets of the Dallas arts community. She serves on the executive boards of The Dallas Opera, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the Nasher Sculpture Center, and is the founder’s chair of the Business Council for the Arts.

Additional board leadership positions include the Dallas Museum of Art, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Meadows School of the Arts, the National Center for Arts Research, the Dallas Mayor’s Business/Arts Initiative, the University of North Texas School of Visual Arts, the Princeton University Art Museum Board of Advisors, the Duke University Board of Trustees, and Ms. Nasher is the Chair of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University Board of Visitors.

Her numerous honors include the 2017 TACA Silver Cup Award for her dedication to arts support. In 2015, Socrates Sculpture Park in New York honored Ms. Nasher for advancing the practice of sculpture. For her dedication to public engagement with the arts, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer the degree Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.

“A Conversation with Nancy Nasher,” is scheduled for 1-2:30 p.m. Friday, May 19, in Taubman Atrium, Owen Arts Center.

Ed E.P. SandersE.P. Sanders, a 1962 alumnus of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, is an internationally respected New Testament scholar responsible for major contributions to studies of Jesus and the Apostle Paul and their relationships to the Judaism of their day. He is credited with prompting the re-evaluation of prejudicial views of Judaism that often characterized earlier biblical scholarship, resulting in improved Jewish-Christian relations.

Sanders is the author of 14 books and numerous monographs that have been translated into 11 languages. His monograph, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977), received a National Religious Book Award, and his Jesus and Judaism (1985) won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas Wesleyan University, a Bachelor of Divinity from SMU Perkins School of Theology, and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary.

Sanders held an endowed chair in religion at Duke University until he retired in 2005. He also held faculty positions at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and at the University of Oxford. He is a fellow of the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Sanders has received honorary doctorates from the University of Oxford and the University of Helsinki.

For his contributions to biblical scholarship, the understanding of Jewish and Christian origins, and Jewish-Christian relations, SMU is honored to confer the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Sanders will be honored with a symposium focused on his work from 10-11:30 a.m. Friday, May 19, in Perkins Chapel. Moderator for “Comparing Early Judaism and Early Christianity: The Scholarship of E. P. Sanders,” will be Mark Chancey, professor of religious studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Panelists will include:

  • Craig C. Hill, dean and professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, SMU
  • David P. Moessner, Bradford Chair of Religion, Department of Religion, TCU
  • Beverly Gaventa Roberts, Distinguished Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Department of Religion, Baylor University and Helen H.P. Manson Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis Emerita, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Sze-kar Wan, Professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, SMU

NIH director Francis S. Collins to deliver address at SMU’s 102nd Commencement May 20, 2017

Francis S. CollinsFrancis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the National Institutes of Health who may be best known for leading the Human Genome Project (HGP), will be the featured speaker during SMU’s 102nd all-University Commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Moody Coliseum.

Dr. Collins – whose own personal research efforts led to the isolation of the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome – will receive the Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from SMU during the ceremony. The entire event, including Collins’ address, will be live streamed at smu.edu/live.

“We are honored to have a pioneering scientist and national leader of Dr. Collins’ stature as featured speaker at Commencement,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His life is testament to a strong, unwavering commitment to the search for scientific knowledge paired with deep religious faith. He has much to share with us.”

As NIH director, Collins oversees the work of the largest institutional supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research. He was appointed by President Obama in 2009 and was asked to remain in the position by President Trump in January 2017. As director, he has helped launch major research initiatives to advance the use of precision medicine for more tailored healthcare, increase our understanding of the neural networks of the brain to improve treatments for brain diseases, and identify areas of cancer research that are most ripe for acceleration to improve cancer prevention and treatment.

While director of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, he oversaw the HGP, a 13-year international effort to map and sequence the 3 billion letters in human DNA. HGP scientists finished the sequence in April 2003, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of James Watson and Francis Crick’s seminal publication describing the double-helix structure of DNA. It remains the world’s largest collaborative biological project and one of the most significant scientific undertakings in modern history.

As an innovative evolutionary geneticist and a devout Christian, Collins also has gained fame for his writings on the integration of logic and belief. His first book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, became a New York Times bestseller in 2006. Since then, he has written The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine (2011) and edited a selection of writings, Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith (2010).

Born in Staunton, Virginia, and raised on a small family farm in the Shenandoah Valley, Collins was home schooled until the sixth grade and attended Robert E. Lee High School in his hometown. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1970.

In 1974, Collins received his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Yale University, where a course in molecular biology triggered a major change in career direction. He enrolled in medical school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he earned his M.D. degree in 1977. From 1978 to 1981, Collins completed a residency and chief residency in internal medicine at North Carolina Memorial Hospital. He then returned to Yale as a Fellow in Human Genetics at the university’s medical school from 1981 to 1984.

Dr. Collins joined the University of Michigan in 1984 as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, a position that would eventually lead to a Professorship of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics. Collins heightened his reputation as a relentless gene hunter with an approach he named “positional cloning,” which has developed into a powerful component of modern molecular genetics.

In contrast to previous methods for finding genes, positional cloning enabled scientists to identify disease genes without knowing the functional abnormality underlying the disease in advance. Collins’ team, together with collaborators, applied the new approach in 1989 in their successful quest for the long-sought gene responsible for cystic fibrosis. Other major discoveries soon followed, including isolation of the genes for Huntington’s disease, neurofibromatosis, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, the M4 type of adult acute leukemia, and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

In 1993, Collins joined NIH to become director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, which became NHGRI in 1997. As director, he oversaw the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium and many other aspects of what he has called “an adventure that beats going to the moon or splitting the atom.”

An elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007 from President George W. Bush. He received the National Medal of Science in 2009.

SMU expects to award more than 1,600 degrees at its University-wide Commencement ceremony. The University’s individual schools and departments will host diploma ceremonies throughout the day.

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