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2010 Commencement: More than 1,000 degrees conferred

Roughly 1,000 degrees were conferred at Emerson's 130th Commencement exercises held May 17 at the Citi Center/Wang Theatre in Boston.

Acclaimed historical novelist Bernard Cornwell delivered the 2010 Undergraduate Commencement address during the morning ceremony, at which more than 750 bachelor's degrees were awarded.

Cornwell has written 49 books, mostly historical, which have been translated into 27 languages and sold more than 37 million copies worldwide. Television adaptations of his books have been shown on BBC America, the History Channel, and Masterpiece Theatre.

During his speech, Cornwell offered two pieces of advice to the graduates: “Never play poker with a man called Doc,” he joked, remarking that 87 percent of alumni don't remember a word of what their commencement speaker said, and on a more serious note, “Think for yourselves.”

“Your job is to challenge everything, to think for yourselves,” he said. “I don't care what the opinion is, just think it through.”

Cornwell, along with Bay State Banner founder, publisher, and editor Melvin B. Miller, received honorary degrees at the ceremony.

The Bay State Banner is a weekly newspaper advocating the interests of Greater Boston's African American community. Miller has also served as Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and Conservator of the Unity Bank and Trust Company, Boston's first minority bank. In 1980, he became chairman of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission and, in 1981, was a founding partner in the law firm of Fitch, Miller and Tourse. He was also vice president and general counsel of WHDH-TV, Boston's CBS affiliate, from 1982 until 1993.

As valedictorian, Writing, Literature, and Publishing graduate Emily McKelvey spoke about the importance of acknowledging the people around you to make the places you live, work, and study more enjoyable.

Emeritus status was conferred on retiring Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders Professor David L. Maxwell at the undergraduate ceremony.

Vicki S. Freimuth, professor in the Department of Speech Communication and the Grady School of Journalism and Director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at the University of Georgia addressed the 294 master's degree candidates at the afternoon ceremony.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Georgia, Freimuth served as director of communication at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for seven years.

Her research has appeared in such journals as Human Communication Research, Journal of Communication, Journal of Health Communication, American Journal of Public Health, Social Science and Medicine, and Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Freimuth is the principal investigator on a CDC-funded Center of Excellence in Health Marketing and Health Communication. She won a Distinguished Career Award from the American Association of Public Health in 2003 and was selected as the first Outstanding Health Communication Scholar by the International Communication Association and the National Communication Association.

In addressing the graduate students, Freimuth spoke of the importance of communication. “The universal need to connect with others is essential and will serve you well,” she said.

Freimuth, along with executive producer of American Experience Mark Samels, received honorary degrees at the afternoon ceremony.

PBS's flagship history series American Experience is television's most-watched and longest-running history series. Since 2003, Samels has overseen the production of more than 50 films for the series, including the first two co-productions between American Experience and PBS's award-winning public affairs series, Frontline.

Under Samels's leadership, the series has been honored with nearly every industry award, including the Peabody, Primetime Emmys, the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, Writers Guild Awards, Oscar nominations, Sundance Film Festival Audience and Grand Jury Awards, and the Eric Barnouw Award from the Organization of American Historians.

In addition to his public television work, he is a founding member of the International Documentary Association and has served on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Nonfiction Peer Group.

Receptions for students, families, and faculty were held on Boston Common after both ceremonies.

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