CNN's Turner, Nobelist Molina Highlight Commencement

by Kathleen Scalise

Media mogul and environmentalist Ted Turner and 1995 chemistry Nobelist Mario J. Molina are among the speakers who will be coming to campus for the upcoming commencement season.

Berkeley's 133rd commencement gets under way with Commencement Convocation May 7 where the 1996 University Medal will be awarded to the top undergraduate. The gathering for all graduating seniors will be held at 4 p.m. in Zellerbach Auditorium.

Schools, colleges and departments will host individual graduation ceremonies May 12 to 24 featuring 67 separate keynote addresses by statesmen, celebrities, campus officials and other prominent individuals.

Turner, board chair and president of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. will speak on "Our Common Future" for the College of Natural Resources Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m. on the Chancellor's Esplanade. His talk is open to the public and no tickets are required.

Molina, 1995 Nobel prize winner in chemistry, will speak at the College of Chemistry ceremony Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m. on Chemistry Plaza.

Others who will address new graduates include Diogo do Frietas Amaral, president of the United Nations General Assembly; Michael Boskin, former economics adviser to President Bush; Leroy Chiao, NASA astronaut; Robert Epstein, co-founder of Sybase; Berkeley's own Robert Haas, the nation's poet laureate; and John A. Lucas, official historian for the International Olympic Committee.

A total of 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students are eligible to receive a Berkeley diploma this spring.

The University Medal this year goes to Dana Russell Wagner, who was barely 17 years old when he came to Berkeley as a freshman in 1992.

He proceeded to earn a double major in economics and comparative literature without ever receiving below an A grade.

Wagner, now 20, describes his strategy for success as "just showing up for class and studying hard and putting in the dedication it requires."

Described by his teachers as "poised, cheerful, friendly and self-confident," Wagner considers his home the Midwest, though he was born in New Jersey and lived for a time in Austria.

He said his inspiration is his parents, who "invested in me to come here," and his grandfather, a prominent scientist and inventor in Germany during World War II who protected refugees from the Nazis before eventually escaping himself.

Wagner's transcript shows as many grades of A+ as A, but doesn't show his dedication to helping first-year students as a residence hall coordinator. He also helped launch Berkeley's innovative Substance-Free Living Environment.

Wagner was always "willing to go above and beyond" to build "community feelings and a friendly and safe environment within the residential complex of 1,200 students," said Tomoyo Kitazawa, a coordinator for student housing.

"When I came out to Berkeley, I'd just turned 17 and I wasn't even sure where in California the Bay Area was," Wagner said. "Berkeley is a big campus and it can be a lonely place." He advises fellow students "to keep their breadth without losing their focus."

Wagner will attend Yale Law School in the fall.


Copyright 1996, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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