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Aug. 12, 2005

Summer Commencement at ULM

The University of Louisiana at Monroe awarded diplomas to 282 students during summer commencement exercises, which took place at 2 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 13) in Fant-Ewing Coliseum on campus.

ULM President James E. Cofer Sr. confered degrees and awarded diplomas. Dr. Ruth E. Smith, professor of Spanish and head of the department of foreign languages at ULM, delivered the commencement address.

Smith spoke to the graduates about an example from the literature of Spain that has inspired generations for the past four hundred years: El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha. She asked the crowd, "Why would this book about an elderly, slightly demented gentleman and his assistant who wandered around Spain tilting at windmills have any relationship to your situation today?"

She answers, "Well, the power of this novel resides in its two main characters: Don Quijote, a symbol of honor and idealism, and his squire, Sancho Panza, a down to earth, fun loving, pragmatic man of the people."

She goes on to say, "In the book, author Miguel de Cervantes tells us of the adventures of these two unlikely heroes: Don Quijote, a tall, skinny, fifty year old, has little experience with the world, has never really worked, and has spent his life reading novels about the glorious deeds of knights in shining armor. Indeed, Don Quijote has spent so much time with these books that Cervantes says his brain has dried up and he has lost all touch with reality. Sancho, a short, round figure of humble origins, joins up with Don Quijote because he hopes to rise to the position of governor of an island, even though he has no preparation for such an assignment. Indeed, neither character seems to be realistic about himself."

"As the novel progresses," said Smith, "each character inspires the other, and by the end Don Quijote begins to laugh at himself, and Sancho has developed nobility of spirit and has begun to dream of what can be. Together they reach a point where the glory that each seeks is less about himself and more about the society in which they live."

The characters were challenged and had to learn to overcome obstacles. Smith told the graduates that they too would be challenged. She said. "It is at those times that I would encourage you to remember the advice that Don Quijote gives to Sancho when his squire is actually given the opportunity to govern. Here is Don Quijote's wise counsel: 'First, should fear God because in fearing him you will find wisdom and being wise you cannot make mistakes. Second, always remember who you are, try to know yourself. This is the most difficult knowledge that anyone can imagine. ...Be proud of your heritage and your family and don't ever hide from your humble beginnings. If you seek virtue and value virtuous acts, there is no reason to be envious of others. Privilege and power may be inherited or given as a gift, but virtue is earned and is worthwhile in itself. Try to discover the truth within the promises of the powerful and in the cries of the poor and needy. If you have occasion to judge others, do not do it with self-righteousness and haughtiness but with compassion. If you follow these precepts and rules, your days will be long, your fame will be eternal, your rewards reassuring, and your happiness endless.' Cervantes' words are as truthful now as they were four hundred years ago."

Smith received her B.A. from Central State University (Edmond, Oklahoma), and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma.
During her thirty years at ULM, Smith has received multiple teaching awards from Omicron Delta Kappa, Alpha Lambda Delta, and the College of Liberal Arts. A leader in foreign language education in the state, she has served foreign language teachers as president of the Louisiana Foreign Languages Teachers Association and of the Antonio Margil Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. She has been a member of a wide variety of committees, and since 1979 she has advised the local chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, national Spanish honor society, of which she is a co-founder.

Smith was a driving force behind the foundation of the University Honors Program, serving as its co-director from 1990-1998, as chair of the Honors Council from 1993-1998, and now as ex-officio member of the Council. She was President of the Louisiana Collegiate Honors Council from 1996-1997.

Before becoming an administrator in 1995, Smith exhibited her leadership ability and demonstrated the regard in which her colleagues hold her by her election as President of the Faculty Senate in 1981-1982 and again in 1985-1986.

During commencement, Jennifer Latham Harris received her Doctor of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction; Theresa Dronet Hart received the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Marriage and Family Therapy; Ravi G. Iyer received the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Pharmacy with a concentration in Pharmacy Administration and a Master's of Business Administration; Nail Mustafa Khanfar received the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Pharmacy with a concentration in Pharmacy Administration; Rahul Vishram Manek received the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Pharmacy with a concentration in Pharmaceutics; Jerry Nesamony received the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Pharmacy with a concentration in Pharmaceutics; and Renea Johnson Oseni received the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.

The top graduate is Lindsey Johnston Allen of Rayville. She graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Allen, who is the wife of Tim Allen and the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Johnston, received a bachelor of arts in psychology.

Honor graduates were recognized during the ceremonies. They are designated as summa cum laude (3.900-4.000), magna cum laude (3.750-3.899) and cum laude (3.500-3.749).

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