University salutes its newest Ph.D.s

Lehigh’s doctoral candidates took center stage at Baker Hall Sunday afternoon in an hour-long hooding ceremony steeped in tradition.
One by one, candidates stepped forward to the front of the stage, their doctoral hoods draped over their left arms. Their faculty advisers joined them, taking the hoods and placing them over the candidates’ heads, in recognition of the students’ successes and accomplishments.
“The doctorate is the highest academic degree. You worked long and hard for this distinction,” Lehigh President Alice P. Gast told the candidates. “You have followed your passion and become experts in your chosen fields. You have demonstrated your ability to think rigorously, to explore, to question.”
The hooding ceremony is part of an American academic system of caps, gowns and hoods adopted in 1895. Candidates wear official regalia chosen in medieval times to distinguish academic and clerical groups from the laity. Over the centuries, the clothing has been modified in cut and color to indicate the level attained within the major branches of knowledge.
Lehigh’s hood is brown with white chevrons. The velvet trim indicates the candidates’ field of study—golden yellow for science, dark blue for philosophy and orange for engineering, for example.
The Main Street Brass played as Gast, the faculty advisers and the doctoral candidates walked in procession into Baker Hall and onto the stage at the beginning of the ceremony. Family and friends filled the hall, standing as the candidates entered.
The candidates were presented by the deans of Lehigh’s four colleges: Gary M. Sasso, dean of the College of Education; Donald E. Hall, Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Thomas J. Hyclak, interim dean of the College of Business and Economics; and S. David Wu, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.
Sasso, who introduced the deans and gave remarks, identified the candidates’ attributes—intellect, passion and perseverance. “You stuck it out,” he told the students. “You persevered.”
Gast, in her remarks, asked the candidates to think about how they will use their knowledge, experience and insights as they enter the next phase of their lives.
“The world needs people who blaze new trails, people who have the intellectual and emotional toughness to look at old problems in new ways and to try something different, people who aim high and do not accept the status quo,” she told them.
“The surest way of being left behind in a career or in life is to stand still. But to move forward means taking chances and leaving what is comfortable behind.”
Gast drew chuckles from the audience when she acknowledged that the doctoral candidates’ family and friends may have wondered why they were staying in school so long. “You knew that there was more,” she told them.
Dissertation award winners
The Elizabeth Stout Dissertation Award, presented annually, was given to doctoral dissertations judged to have made unusually significant and original contributions in their fields. The award was endowed by Robert Stout, the late professor emeritus of materials science and engineering, in memorial to his wife.
This year’s recipients were:
•    Cheng Chen, economics, “Three Essays on the Short-term, Long-term and Inter-generational Effects of Environmental Changes on Health Outcomes”
•    Vanessa J. Pressimone, education and human services, “Head Start Families’ School Readiness Beliefs and Transitioning Roles”
•    Victoria Caruso Silva, biological sciences, “Linking Cell Cycle Delays to Apoptosis in Cancer Cells”
•    Adam R. Stone, materials science and engineering, “Three-dimensional Fabrication of Functional Single Crystal Waveguides Inside Glass by Femtosecond Laser Irradiation”
Silas A. Chamberlin, who earned a doctorate in history, received the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Dissertation Award for “On the Trail: A History of American Hiking.”
Ninety-two doctoral degrees were awarded at Lehigh’s 146th commencement May 19.

Photo by Christa Neu