Nobel Laureate Challenges Graduates to Make the World Better

Published on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

On May 10, 2008 Becker College celebrated its 220th Commencement in grand style with plenty of pomp and circumstance. The class of 2008, representing 321 graduates of 33 different majors received their well-earned diplomas (see photos) in front of over two thousand friends and family members and a stage packed with College faculty, administrators and trustees. Also on stage were two very special guests, Nobel Laureate Craig Mello, PhD and community leader Sumner B. Tilton, Jr.

Dr. Mello is best known for his co-discovery of RNA interference, a natural phenomenon which takes place at a cellular level and allows scientific investigators to silence targeted genes.  This discovery, along with the human genome project, holds tremendous potential for new medical treatments.  Perhaps someday clinicians will have the ability to turn off genes that cause diseases such a diabetes, cancer, or Alzheimer’s.

Joking with the crowd that "there will be a quiz" after his speech, Dr. Mello compared his ground-breaking work with RNA interference to Google’s search engine, in so much as it allows researchers and physicians to begin to understand the power of each cell’s own "search engine" to treat and cure disease.

"But unless we do something about the social divisions, only those who are insured and wealthy will have access to it," he said. "To change the inequities in this world, we have to choose to work together. We can produce enough food, energy, and medicine for everyone to have enough."

Dr. Mello continued, "I want to encourage all of you to believe you can make a difference. And you must. Each of you has a responsibility to use the knowledge you have gained here at Becker College to be more than a consumer; be a helper, a healer and a teacher. Congratulations, the future is yours."

Emmanuel Masumbuko aspires to be just such a citizen, and the young man who grew up in Africa’s Congo and Ivory Coast now calls Worcester his home. Fluent in English, French, and Swahili, the business administration major might have his pick of big city jobs, in the United States, or overseas. After completing internships at the Worcester African Cultural Center and Worcester UniverCity Partnership, he’s sure this city is the right fit.

His experiences learning English at a Vermont high school, and sportsmanship on the Becker basketball court, have earned Manny a strong sense of determination. That is a value that is serving him well as he commences a job search in a slow economy. His philosophy would serve any new graduate well, “Always compete and give everything you’ve got, and you will prevail.”

After his address, Dr. Mello was presented with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by President Zirkle, Becker Chairman of the Board of Trustees John Prosser and Professor Carole Howe. Also receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters from President Zirkle, Mr. Prosser and Professor William McCarthy, was Sumner B. "Tony" Tilton, Jr.

Mr. Tilton, director of the law firm Fletcher, Tilton & Whipple, has spent a lifetime in service to the Worcester community and is a former trustee of Leicester Junior College. Further examples of his commitment to Worcester include service as a trustee of UMass Memorial Healthcare, Worcester Art Museum, and The Ruth H. and Warren A. Ellsworth Foundation. Mr. Tilton has also been the past president of Mechanics Hall and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation and is a trustee emeritus of Clark University. He was recently named the Isaiah Thomas award winner for 2007 by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette for his "spirit of dedicated and enthusiastic civic leadership.”

The Dean’s Awards are the highest academic honors given to a student by the college. This year’s award for the bachelor degree program was presented to Michael Conlon and associate degree program to Elena Galeriu. Also honored was Jenny Lemay, an interior design major, who tragically passed away in November of 2006. In a powerful moment accompanied by a standing ovation, Jenny’s family ascended the stage to accept her certificate of participation.

Commencement is a celebration of accomplishment and the first step toward a brighter future. President Zirkle offered, "You are entering a world that needs an educated, ethical, and globally sophisticated workforce. You will, and must have, a significant positive impact on the world around you. My advice to you is: Don’t look back to place blame or regret. Set high goals, dream and seek and accept responsibility." And with the words of Dr. Mello and President Zirkle in their ears, and the images of friends crossing the stage, the Class of 2008 is more than prepared to do so.

For a list of graduates* click here.