RIC 2011 commencement, May 21

"Pomp and Circumstance" is in the air as Rhode Island College prepares for its 157th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 21, starting at 9:30 a.m. About 1,214 undergraduate degrees will be presented to candidates from the schools of arts and sciences, education, management, nursing and social work.

RIC English professor and celebrated author Thomas Cobb, who penned the novel “Crazy Heart,” the film adaptation of which earned two Academy Awards in 2010, will be this year’s undergraduate commencement speaker and will receive the coveted Presidential Medal, bestowed upon individuals of special distinction within the college community.

RIC will also award Craig Stenning, director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, with an honorary Doctor of Health Sciences degree. Stenning has had a long career in advocacy for assuring quality services and supports for Rhode Islanders with developmental disabilities, mental health and substance abuse issues, and chronic medical and psychiatric conditions.

Members of the class of 1961 will celebrate their golden anniversary at commencement, leading the graduation processional. They will present the college an annual endowed scholarship for prospective teachers.

Advanced Degree Commencement exercises were held on Thursday, May 19. About 300 degrees were conferred.

Sandra Powell, director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree and delivered the graduate commencement address. Powell, who for many years has been at the forefront of public policy and administration, was chosen by Gov. Lincoln Chafee in January to lead the Department of Human Services, after serving for more than two decades in workforce development, most recently as the director of the state’s Department of Labor and Training.

Patricia Martinez, executive director for family support and student development at Central Falls High School, was awarded a Doctor of Humanities degree at the same ceremony. Martinez, who holds a master’s of social work from RIC, previously headed the state’s Department of Children, Youth and Families and has been a long-time advocate for at-risk children and newly arrived immigrants.