TSRI Holds Ninth Commencement

By Mika Ono

On Friday, May 18, a line of graduate students and faculty processed from The Skaggs Institute, through the tunnel under North Torrey Pines Road, to The Neurosciences Institute in the ninth commencement ceremony at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). Once in the auditorium, the graduating students and TSRI faculty were joined on stage by Gray Davis, governor of California who was to receive an honorary degree.

TSRI President Richard A. Lerner welcomed the audience and introduced the governor, praising him as "a great friend to the scientific community," citing among many accomplishments his work with Lerner and others founding the Institutes for Science and Innovation at three University of California campuses.

In receiving his degree, Davis gave a warm and often humorous speech expressing an appreciation for the contributions of science and scientists. "I know full well our future is in your hands," he said. "There are an awful lot of bright people in the audience and we are better off for it. As a matter of fact, I should have you all commandeered to Sacramento to help me solve the electricity problem."

To the graduates, he said, "Your best years are ahead of you. The discoveries that you will make—and I know you will make them—will enrich the lives of Americans and people around the entire world. You will push back the frontiers of knowledge. You will develop antidotes or cures to diseases that have troubled humankind for centuries and we will be richer for having you amongst us."

Joseph Graham Davis, Jr. (nicknamed "Gray" by his mother), a cum laude graduate of Stanford University with a Columbia University Law School degree, served as a U.S. army captain in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service. From 1983 to 1987, Davis served in the State Assembly from Los Angeles County and was chief of staff to Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. from 1975 to 1981. He was state controller for eight years, before being elected as the state’s lieutenant governor. During this time, he also held the positions of president of the State Senate, chair of the Commission for Economic Development, chair of the State Lands Commission, regent of the University of California, and trustee of the California State University. In November 1998, he was elected governor of California.

After the governor was awarded his honorary doctor of science, Jeffery Kelly, vice president for academic affairs and dean of graduate studies, introduced the next part of the program, the conferral of degrees on the graduating students.

“In ways that the founders of this program had not anticipated, the graduate program has brought a spirit of vitality, inquisitiveness, and innovation to the institute,” Kelly said. "The students continually fine-tune the senses of those of us who have more experience, they frame new and challenging questions about issues that we thought were fully clarified, and they allow us to see science through their eyes. Most importantly, they remind us why we chose to make this our life’s venture."

He continued, "It is important to note that many of the major scientific discoveries that are made at this institute have graduate student participation. This is something that makes us feel enormously proud."

The graduating students’ advisors then stepped up to the podium to speak about each student and his or her scientific accomplishments. Stephen Mayfield, associate dean of graduate studies, helped Kelly place the ceremonial blue and black hood over each graduate’s head and hand each his or her Ph.D. diploma.

As the ceremony ended and recessional played, TSRI was 21 alumni, one honoris causa, and many memories richer.




California Governor Gray Davis receives an honorary degree from TSRI for his accomplishments supporting education and science.










Graduate students and their advisors take their places for commencement.





The Governor’s Prepared Remarks

The Graduating Students