Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, delivered the keynote address at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s 46th commencement on Friday. Degrees were conferred to 3,994 UMass Boston graduates under sunny skies during the ceremony on the Campus Center Circle Lawn. About 10,000 people were in attendance.
Figueres, an influential advocate for global action to combat the effects of rising temperatures, urged the Class of 2014 to live thoughtfully and exercise their right to control their destinies and the future of the planet, which is imperiled by the effect of climate change. "There is no greater power than the power of choice," she told the graduates.
Figueres, in her fifth year leading the UNFCCC, is also a widely published author and popular public speaker. Her visit continued UMass Boston’s tradition of hosting speakers who are strongly committed to principles of environmental justice.
Figueres also received an honorary doctorate of law degree, joined by fellow honorary degree recipients Mel King, the Boston civil rights activist, and Feng Wu, a pioneer in the field of electric vehicle technology.
College of Liberal Arts student Shaun O’Grady, a Lynn native, received the 2014 JFK Award – the university’s highest honor for graduates. The U.S. Marines Corps veteran delivered a stirring speech about losing one of his close friends in the Iraq war, and supporting her mother through her battle with chemotherapy.
Three UMass Boston professors were also honored at the ceremony. This year's Chancellor's Awards were presented to Professor of English Elizabeth Fay (Distinguished Scholarship), Professor of Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences Robert Chen (Distinguished Teaching), and Associate Professor of Economics Catherine Lynde (Distinguished Service).
UMass Trustee Richard Campbell, a UMass Boston alumnus and founder of the Krystle Campbell Scholarship, was presented the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service.
Additional information about the honorary degree recipients:
Christiana Figueres, Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa
Christiana Figueres is the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which supports governments’ efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and to prevent further dangerous human interference with our planet’s climate. She was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010 and reappointed for a second three-year term in 2013. She has been active in climate change negotiations since 1995, and is widely published author on political and business solutions to climate change.
The Honorable Melvin King, Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa
Melvin “Mel” King, a 1952 alumnus of Boston State Teachers College, has transformed the city through a lifetime of activism, organizing, teaching, service, leadership, and urban planning. As a community organizer, he led a fight against a proposed interstate highway that would have destroyed several neighborhoods, and coordinated the now-famous Tent City sit-in in the South End. He also served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and founded the South End Technology Center.
Feng Wu, Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa
Feng Wu has dedicated his career to perfecting sources of green, renewable energy sources that are critical to the development of hybrid electric vehicles. A professor at Beijing Institute of Technology’s School of Chemical Engineering and the Environment, he is also chief scientist at China’s National Advanced Secondary Battery Project Professor Wu holds 95 patents and has published 526 paper in scientific journals and volumes.
About UMass Boston
Recognized for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve more than 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.