U. S. Congressman James L. Oberstar will be the featured speaker at UMD commencement ceremonies set for Saturday, May 13 at noon at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC). The announcement was made today by UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin who also announced that during the ceremonies, Congressman Oberstar will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for public service, the university's highest honorary award.
Chancellor Martin said, "Jim Oberstar is one of Northern Minnesota's most prominent citizens. He has made immense contributions to the economic and social vitality of our region and our university. UMD is proud to have him with us, and to recognize and honor his outstanding achievements."
First elected in 1974, Congressman Oberstar is currently serving his 13th term as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District. He is the senior democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and an ex officio member of the Subcommittees on Aviation, Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation, Public Buildings & Economic Development, Railroads, Surface Transportation, and Water Resources & Environment. He is the former chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, Investigations & Oversights Subcommittee, and Economic Development Subcommittee. Among numerous awards, he most recently received the 1999 Great Lakes Maritime Task Force Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award, and the 1999 National Association of Counties Legislator of the Year Award.
Oberstar has been a long-time supporter of UMD and its educational mission. He has worked with Chancellor Martin on several projects including the establishment of the UMD Center for Freshwater Research & Policy. The Center was created in 1998 and serves as an umbrella for organizations and projects (both at UMD and in the region) which are focused on freshwater research and policy issues.
He helped secure federal funding for a number of programs at the UMD Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI). He also helped raise funds for the remodeling of laboratory space at the UMD School of Medicine and assisted the university to acquire from U.S. Steel the Coleraine Minerals Research Laboratory on the Minnesota Iron Range. In addition, Congressman Oberstar was instrumental in establishing the University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program, which is housed at UMD. On the Twin Cities Campus, he played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Center for Transportation Studies.
The May 13 commencement ceremonies are expected to have 725 students participating, along with 100 faculty. Separate Graduate School ceremonies (including 150 masters degree and five doctoral candidates) will be held on May 11 at 7 p.m. in the UMD Romano Gymnasium. Speaker for that event will be Professor John Pastor, winner of the Fall 1999 Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Research. Dr. Pastor is a professor in the Department of Biology and a senior research associate at the Natural Resources Research Institute.