Wayne State University commencement ceremonies set for Saturday, May 3, at Tom Adams Field on campus

April 28, 2008

Ernie Harwell, Yousif Ghafari to receive honorary doctoral degrees

Some 2,500 Wayne State University students who will participate in commencement ceremonies at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 3, on campus are hoping for good weather for the event and good fortune in their respective career fields. They are among 6,700 new graduates eligible to participate in the annual outdoor ceremony at WSU's Tom Adams Field in the Matthaei Athletics Complex. This is the third year for a larger, annual commencement, which replaces twice-a-year ceremonies formerly held indoors at an off-campus location.

Receiving honorary Doctor of Laws degrees will be Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster and author Ernie Harwell and businessman/philanthropist Yousif B. Ghafari of Bloomfield Hills. Receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award will be Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Four graduating students also will be honored. Receiving the David D. Henry Award will be Katherine Cockrel of Detroit and Mark Mathes of New Boston. Receiving the Howard A. Donnelly Award will be Amarinder Singh of Rochester and Tarak Trivedi of Troy. The prestigious Henry and Donnelly awards are presented for high scholastic achievement, leadership and service.

Legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell, the voice of the Detroit Tigers for 42 of his 55 years behind the microphone, became the first active broadcaster inducted into major league baseball's Hall of Fame in 1981. His name has since been enshrined in nine other sports and broadcasting halls of fame, including the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

A World War II veteran of the Marines, Harwell started his broadcasting career in 1946 with a minor league team in Atlanta. He also has been a broadcaster for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles. His broadcast style, knowledge of baseball history and winning personality have made him beloved by fans and players alike. Over the years, he has been a frequent spokesman for charities and nonprofit organizations.

Yousif Ghafari is founder and chairman of Ghafari Inc., an architectural, engineering, design consultation, and professional staffing company headquartered in Dearborn. A graduate and major benefactor of Wayne State University, Ghafari has been nominated by President George W. Bush as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia, pending U.S. Senate confirmation. A member of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, he was one of three U.S. public delegates to the 59th United Nations General Assembly in 2004.

Ghafari holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics, a master's degree in applied mathematics and computer applications, and a master's degree in chemical engineering, all from Wayne State. He earned a master's degree in business administration from Michigan State University. He is a past recipient of WSU's Corporate Leadership Award and Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award. He also is a member of the College of Engineering's Hall of Fame. He serves as a volunteer on the boards of many civic and charitable organizations. In recognition of his outstanding support for the university, Wayne State renamed one of its newest residence halls for Ghafari in 2005.

As executive director of UNFPA, Wayne State alumna Thoraya Ahmed Obaid heads a UN agency that helps governments around the globe to formulate policies and strategies to reduce poverty and support sustainable development. The first Saudi Arabian to head a United Nations agency, she also chairs the UN's principal interagency body for coordinating administrative and management matters. In her current position, the executive director has placed special focus on culture and religion in the agency's development work, linking universal values of human rights to conviction of human worth promoted by all religions and found in all cultures.

Before joining UNFPA, Obaid was deputy executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia for five years. She chaired the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Gender in Amman, Jordan, in 1996 and was a member of the UN Inter-Agency Gender Mission to Afghanistan in 1997. She holds master's and doctoral degrees from Wayne State University.

Graduating senior Katherine Cockrel, is receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree with dual majors in political science and public relations. She served as president of the Wayne State chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and was instrumental in helping the chapter bring the PRSSA National Conference to Detroit in 2008. She interned at one of New York City's premier public relations firms focusing on fashion, lifestyle and entertainment. She also was an intern with Franco Public Relations Group in Detroit. As a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Detroit, Cockrel worked with a mentor in visiting an elementary school, where she developed an ongoing friendship with a "little sister." She also has performed volunteer work with the Salvation Army and with Starfish Family Services.

Mark Mathes
is graduating from the College of Engineering with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and a specialty in transportation engineering. He served as president of the WSU chapter of Chi Epsilon, the national honor society for civil engineering students, and as vice president of the WSU chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Among other service activities, he helped plan and carry out the annual, two-day "Drive Safely to Wayne State" campaign, which promotes the importance of safe driving practices. Mathes is active in the American Society of Civil Engineers, which organizes workplace visits for undergraduates, helping them familiarize themselves with the application of knowledge and skills in real-life settings.

Amarinder Singh
, a participant in the WSU Honors Program, earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and is a member of MedStart, an honors program for pre-med students. She has served as president and as secretary of the Honors Student Association and is a student coordinator and peer advisor for MedStart and for HealthPro Start, an honors program for pre-pharmacy students. As a coordinator, she helped coordinate seminars and other learning experiences for students who plan to pursue careers in medicine or pharmacy. She has put her journalism training to work in writing a newsletter for the Center to Advance Palliative Care and has performed volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, the Coalition on Temporary Shelter and Project Challenge Mentor, a program that links mentors with Detroit youth who are affected by HIV. She will enter the WSU School of Medicine this fall.

Tarak Trivedi, who is graduating with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences, participated in the MedStart program offered through the Honors Program. He will pursue a degree from the WSU School of Medicine beginning this fall. He was consistently on the dean's list and has been a Princeton Review instructor and a private tutor for both the ACT and the Medical College Admission Test. In 2007, he received the Detroit MCAT Teacher of the Year Award from the Princeton Review. He has been an active volunteer with the university's Honors Program, including participation as a student ambassador for the annual Scholars Day and promoting the MedStart program at area high schools. He served as an officer with the Wayne State Chapter of Amnesty International and has volunteered at Detroit Receiving Hospital, Hannan House Senior Center, St. Patrick' Senior Center and the Detroit Fellows Tutoring Project. Last summer, Trivedi traveled to China as a participant in a program offered by Tsinghua University to help stimulate interest in higher education through teaching of the English language.

Should severe weather force cancellation of the May 3 ceremonies, commencement will be held instead on Sunday, May 4, at 11 a.m.

Wayne State University is a premier institution of higher education offering more than 350 academic programs through 11 schools and colleges to more than 33,000 students.