`Change' is theme for WSU grads.


Byline: Bill Fortier

WORCESTER - Change was the focus of yesterday's Worcester State University commencement exercises at the DCU Center.

State Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, was the first of several speakers to tell the 913 undergraduate students and 233 graduate students that they were first to get degrees from the newly renamed Worcester State University.

"I think that deserves a big round of applause," she said.

Yesterday's commencement ceremony, held in front of more than 4,000 people, was also the last under President Janelle C. Ashley, who is retiring after nine years at that post. She is the university's first female president.

"The university has flourished under the leadership of Dr. Janelle Ashley," said John P. Brissette, chairman of Worcester State's board of trustees. "You have positioned this university for greatness."

A five-minute video, in which Ms. Ashley's family and colleagues spoke admiringly of her, followed Mr. Brissette's remarks.

The commencement speaker was John J. Connolly, president and CEO of Castle Connolly Medical Limited, which publishes consumer guides for people seeking health care. Mr. Connolly is a frequent guest on radio and television shows including "Today," "Good Morning America" and "20/20." He is also the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including "America's Top Doctors" and "America's Top Doctors for Cancer."

Mr. Connolly said he had planned to speak at the 50th anniversary of his graduation next year, but changed his plans in order to participate in Ms. Ashley's last commencement.

Mr. Connolly, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters yesterday, said the country's population is getting older, and many people who are retiring in their 50s or 60s are entering what he termed an encore stage of their lives, in which they frequently pursue second careers in things they are truly interested in.

"That is something you need to start thinking about and planning for in the upcoming decades," he advised the graduates during yesterday's nearly three-hour ceremony.

Mr. Connolly said he has learned many things, but he listed about a half dozen pieces of advice that he feels are especially important as the students pursue their careers. Among the pointers were: be on time, don't unnecessarily "pump" up achievements, learn everything possible about the job, get involved in community charities and organizations, listen carefully, and say something only if it "100 percent"...

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