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  April 16, 2001

Top Education Official to Speak at Commencement

Rod Paige, named U.S. Secretary of Education by President George W. Bush shortly after Bush's inauguration, has accepted an invitation to deliver the keynote address during undergraduate commencement exercises on May 19.

Paige, superintendent of schools in Houston, Texas, from 1994 until he was tapped for the highest education post in the nation, also served for a decade as dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, where he established the university's Center for Excellence in Urban Education, a research facility that concentrates on issues related to instruction and management in urban school systems.

Connecticut's Gov. John G. Rowland will deliver the keynote speech during commencement exercises at the UConn Health Center at 5:30 p.m. on May 24; Lester R. Brown, founder and president of the Worldwatch Institute, a non-profit research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental issues, will speak during graduate ceremonies in Storrs at 3 p.m. on May 20; and Clare Dalton, the Matthews Distinguished University Professor at Northeastern University School of Law, will keynote ceremonies at the UConn School of Law at 10:30 a.m. on May 20.

"We are deeply honored to have our nation's education leader join us for this celebration of academic success. I look forward to hearing Secretary Paige's advice to our graduates, and I hope to showcase our extraordinary University," said UConn President Philip Austin in announcing Paige's upcoming visit. "I am particularly eager to let him know about the contributions the Neag School of Education is making to K-12 education in Connecticut and across the nation."

Austin also praised the selection of Gov. Rowland as keynote speaker at the UConn Health Center.

"We are, as always, privileged to have the leader of the state join us to commemorate the excellence of Connecticut's flagship public university," he said. "At the UConn Health Center in particular, our strides in research are in no small measure attributable to the governor's support for our Academic Research Building, which has enabled us to attract some of the nation's outstanding scientists and enhanced our ability to contribute to the state's quality of life and economic development."

Born in Monticello, Miss., Paige is the son of public school educators, and he has carried a passion for public education with him throughout his career. As a trustee and an officer of the Board of Education of the Houston Independent School District from 1989-1994, Paige co-authored the board's A Declaration of Beliefs and Visions, a statement of purpose and goals for the school district that called for fundamental reform through decentralization, a focus on instruction, accountability at all levels, and development of a core curriculum. The paper was the catalyst for the ongoing, comprehensive restructuring of the Houston school district.

In 2001, Paige was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators. One year earlier, he was awarded the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education, for his extraordinary commitment to the improvement of education, and the National Association of Black School Educators' Superintendent of the Year award.

Paige earned his bachelor's degree from Jackson State University in Mississippi and his master's and doctoral degrees from Indiana University.

Rowland, who in January 1999 began his second term as Connecticut's governor, was, until the swearing in of Jane Swift as Massachusetts governor April 10, the youngest governor in the nation. During his tenure in Hartford, the state has run surpluses totaling more than $1.2 billion during the past six years, and he has invested more than $2 billion to rebuild the state's education system, from pre-kindergarten through college. In June 1995, he signed into law the bill that created the UConn 2000 program, which to date has led to the construction of nearly 20 new buildings on UConn's Storrs and regional campuses. He also supported capital spending to build a $40 million Academic Research Building at the UConn Health Center.

Lester Brown, whose skills during the past four decades as analyst, advocate and organizer have pushed environmental issues to the center of the world's consciousness, began his career as a farmer in southern New Jersey, studied agricultural sciences at Rutgers University, graduating in 1955. In 1959, after spending six months in India, he joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service as an international agricultural analyst.

In 1974, with support from Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Brown founded Worldwatch Institute, a private non-profit research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental issues. Ten years later, he launched State of the World Reports, an annual newsletter translated into all the world's major languages. It has become the 'bible' of the environmental movement. He has since created several more magazines on environmental issues and authored nearly 20 books.

Dalton, who is on the faculty at Northeastern University's School of Law, is a leading feminist legal scholar and pioneer in the development of legal education focusing on domestic violence. In 1990, she founded Northeastern's Domestic Violence Clinic and three years later established the Domestic Violence Institute, for which she served as executive director.

The Institute today is considered a signature program for the law school, serving as a national model for pedagogy about domestic violence and for law school-based institutes across the country.

Richard Veilleux

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