Deep Thoughts: Ocean champion Earle <br/>to address Saint Michael's graduates

By: Mark Tarnacki
sylvia earle

This year's commencement at Saint Michael's will be an immersive experience.

The College is proud to announce that Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and world-renowned oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer, will be the guest speaker at the 2014 Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 11 at the Ross Sports Center starting at 10 a.m.

Nicknamed "Her Deepness" by the New Yorker and the New York Times, Earle's legacy spans some 60 years. It began with her first scuba dive in 1953, followed by some 7,000 hours underwater since, and includes leading the first team of aquanauts in 1970 (living underwater for weeks at a time) and holding the record for solo diving to a 1000-meter depth. From that firsthand experience, Earle has authored more than 190 scientific and technical publications and lectured in more than 80 countries, mostly focusing on the exploration and conservation of marine ecosystems.

"I value her work and admire her so much," said Saint Michael's Vice President of Academic Affairs Karen Talentino, calling Earle "someone whose knowledge is so critical and relevant to our students making their way in the world."

Earle's work to preserve the oceans dovetails with Saint Michael's own mission of intellectual and social stewardship. Talentino pointed out that Saint Michael's students are uniquely passionate about academics and social justice and, when coupled with the fact that now 20 to 25 percent of students are majoring in scientific or environmental disciplines, it made Earle an easy choice.

"I know that she will deliver a tremendous message to our community and to our students," Talentino said. "She speaks about trying to mobilize people to action, and is particularly interested in giving messages to young women and men that there is a lot of work to do to preserve and restore the ocean. It's just what our students need to hear."

Earle's more recent work focuses on building a network of "Hope Spots" through her Mission Blue organization, cataloguing and protecting areas on land and in the ocean that display important abundances of biodiversity. Such a network, Earle believes, is a vital response to accelerating climate change. It also tidily reflects the student experience of building a strong knowledge base before heading out into a challenging, rapidly changing job market.

"No blue, no green," Earle has famously said.

On May 11 for the 107th  Saint Michael's Commencement, Earle will bring her deep experience with the former to the mountains known for the latter.

Along with Earle, three others will be presented honorary degrees during the Commencement ceremony:

Joseph P Garrity

Joseph P. Garrity, a 1978 Saint Michael's graduate, served as a trustee of the college from 2002 to 2011, the last five years as chair. A Certified Public Accountant by training, he has built an impressive career leading businesses on the front edge of various modern communications and computing niches. Currently he is Independent Director at Wireless Telecom Group, Inc. and a partner with Prospect Capital Partners in New York. He previously was Chief Financial Officer of 4Kids Entertainment, Inc., a company that integrates technologies with toy and game concepts -- giving rise early-on to the Pokemon international gaming craze. He also took the lead in the search and hiring of President John J. Neuhauser in 2007, and his gifts have supported many major projects at the college.

Rosemary Reiss

Rosemary Reiss, the third "First Lady" of "Saint Michael's College from 1985 to 1996 when her husband, Paul, was president, became well-known for dedicated service to the college in those years, as well as to her family and the community. She is mother to nine children, grandmother to 27, and recently a great-grandmother. With a master's in Scripture study, she taught high school and parish religion classes, and has done extensive volunteer work at Vermont Respite House and Mercy Care, promoting literacy and helping manage camps for inner-city children. She also is very active with the League of Women Voters, Chittenden County Agency on Aging, Flynn Theater and the Lake Placid Sinfonietta

Peter Gilbert

One of Vermont's most admired essayists, Peter Gilbert has been Executive Director of the Vermont Humanities Council (VHC) since 2002 and Robert Frost's executor since 1992. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Georgetown Law Center and University of Virginia, he is a former litigator and teacher of English and history at Philips Academy in Andover, MA, as well as author of  I Was Thinking … Travels in the World of Ideas – a collection of his essays. He also has been senior assistant to the president and associate provost at Dartmouth.

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