June 3, 2007 

WORCESTER, Mass.- The University of Massachusetts Worcester today awarded 181 degrees, including two honorary degrees, at its 34th commencement exercises held at Mechanics Hall. Graduates of the three schools that make up UMass Worcester-the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the Graduate School of Nursing-were encouraged to continue to aspire for personal and professional greatness by keynote speaker and Nobel Laureate Craig C. Mello, PhD, the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine. 

Dr. Mello, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of molecular medicine and cell biology at UMass Worcester, received the 2006 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with his colleague Andrew Z. Fire, PhD, of Stanford University, for their discoveries related to RNA interference (RNAi).  In 1998, Dr. Fire, then of the Carnegie Institution, and Mello published findings in Nature that demonstrated a certain form of ribonucleic acid (RNA) could silence the expression of a gene whose coding sequence of DNA was similar to that of the RNA they tested. The RNAi mechanism they discovered destroys the gene products a virus needs to replicate itself, halting the viral infection. RNAi has initiated new dialogue on developmental gene regulations, and it is today's state-of-the-art method by which scientists can knock out the expression of a specific gene in cells to define that gene's biological functions.

University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson, PhD, and former UMass Worcester Chancellor and Dean of the Medical School Aaron Lazare, MD, presided over the commencement ceremonies. Dr. Lazare is currently the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education and professor of psychiatry, having recently stepped down after nearly two decades as chancellor and dean. Drs. Wilson and Lazare presented 89 doctor of medicine degrees, including one MD/PhD; 33 doctor of philosophy degrees; and, in nursing, 51 master of science degrees and six doctor of philosophy degrees. This year's commencement exercises featured the first graduates of the Graduate School of Nursing's Graduate Entry Pathway Program. Established in 2004, the program enrolls students who are seeking a nursing career, but possess a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. Those who enroll in the program are set on the path of the Graduate School of Nursing's existing Master of Science Degree program, which strives to meet and exceed the challenges of the current and future nursing shortages by training and preparing individuals to enter the profession of nursing.

UMass Worcester also presented honorary degrees to David "Duddie" G.. Massad and Arthur J. Remillard, Jr. 

Mr. Massad is chairman of Commerce Bank & Trust in Worcester.  He is a well-known businessman, developer and entrepreneur in Central Massachusetts.  Massad began his career with his first automobile venture with a used-car dealership in the 1940s; from there he built several successful domestic and foreign car dealerships and owned Duddie Ford in Westborough, Mass. before selling the dealership in 2003.  He continues to serve as president of Diamond Chevrolet, Inc. of Worcester and Wallingford Toyota of Wallingford, Conn.  A native of Worcester,  Massad resides in Westborough. 

Particularly known for his contributions to the recovery and success of troubled businesses, in December 1993, Massad purchased Commerce Bank and currently serves as chairman of Commerce Bancshares Corp., the holding company of Commerce Bank & Trust Co.  Through his companies, Massad has been a longtime supporter of the UMass Memorial Foundation, especially UMass Memorial's Children's Medical Center.  In January 2005, he made the lead gift of $12.5 million to the UMass Memorial Foundation's Emergency Care Campaign.  In making the gift, he said, "I grew up in Central Massachusetts, and this is a way of helping ensure that the next generation of friends and neighbors in this wonderful place have access to the best emergency health care in the world."
Culminating a 40-year career in the property and casualty insurance industry, Mr. Remillard retired in July 2006 from his position as president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of The Commerce Group, Inc., the company he founded in 1971.  Ranked among the Fortune 500 companies, The Commerce Group is the largest insurer of automobiles in Massachusetts and the country's 19th largest automobile insurer.  He continues to serve as a director of the company. Remillard resides in Webster, Mass. and Palm Beach, Fla.

Through the Remillard Family Foundation, which he established in 1997, Remillard has become actively involved in philanthropy, making major gifts to the Boys and Girls Club, the Central Massachusetts Chapter of the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.  In 2005, he made a leadership gift of $10 million to the UMass Memorial Foundation's Emergency Care Campaign.  It is the third largest gift ever made to the UMass Memorial Foundation. Remillard also contributes $100,000 annually to the UMass Memorial Foundation Annual Fund.  His son, Arthur J. Remillard III, a senior executive and director of The Commerce Group, Inc., serves as a director of the UMass Memorial Foundation.

Also recognized with a special honor at the ceremony was UMass Worcester Professor of Cell Biology Merrill K. "Ken" Wolf, MD. For the past 30 years, Dr. Wolf has demonstrated his love for and commitment to UMass Worcester students by performing all arrangements for the annual commencement on Mechanics Hall's historic pipe organ, even adapting and arranging the event's processional from a Bach cantata. 

Wolf distinguished himself early in life. He was a musical prodigy, performing in public by age five, and was cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest person at the time ever to graduate from college (he earned his bachelor of arts degree in music from Yale University at age 14 in 1945). In addition to performing, however, Wolf was also interested in biology and medicine and possessed a keen desire to teach. After receiving his medical degree in 1956 from Case Western Reserve University, he worked for a time in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Sidman at Harvard University, before joining the fledgling UMass Worcester campus in 1971. While he chose to retire from research in 2000, Wolf continues to teach medical students, focusing on bringing the latest information and technology to his students.

In honor of his dedication to performing at the UMass Worcester commencement ceremonies, Wolf was presented a special award from Lazare in recognition of "thirty years of heralding our graduates into their careers of health and healing." As a special token of appreciation, Wolf was presented with an original bound copy of his personal arrangement for organ of Johann Sebastian Bach's opening march from an academic festival cantata.

Alison Duffy