Tip Ragan Gives Commencement Address for UT’s History Department

graduation-2010-coffin-ragan-millerCC History Professor Bryant “Tip” Ragan gave the commencement address at the University of Texas department of history’s Class of 2010 commencement ceremony.

Ragan, who received a B.A. from UT’s history department in 1981, told the audience that even after nearly 30 years, “Talking in front of my former professors, some of them here, and friends and colleagues is particularly nerve wracking. I feel as if I am going to be graded again.”

Almost 200 graduates of the participated in the ceremony on May 21, bringing hundreds of family and friends with them. Among the graduates was a man who took 52 years to earn his undergraduate degree. (See below.)

Ragan was introduced by History Associate Professor Martha Newman, chair of the department of religious studies, who met Ragan when they were fellow graduate students while studying in Paris.

She recounted the Thanksgiving dinner they shared in France. He had called to let her know that he’d found a turkey, which was very rare for that country. But there was a catch — he needed her assistance in preparing it for dinner. And by the way, it still had all its feathers. “He is a person who always brings people together,” Newman said. “He has the ability to get people to do things for him, all the while making it seem like it is to their benefit.” That, she said, is a skill that administrators can always use and seek to cultivate.

Ragan told the history grads, “Your liberal arts education has given you the tools in order to succeed, analytic, communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills.”

He also told them, “We could spend countless hours talking about the wonders of history, but you guys want to graduate. So I’m just going to mention three important ways that I think that history shapes us as individuals.

First, history stokes our passions. Second, it encourages us to be more cosmopolitan by introducing us to historical subjects who are very different from us and consequently makes us more open-minded and tolerant. And third, it demands that we be honest—with ourselves, with our historical subjects, and with our own contemporaries.”

His commencement address can be read in its entirety at: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/history/_files/downloads/news/spring10/prof-ragan-graduation-speech-10.pdf

The graduate was Dr. Harvey Michael “Mike” Jones, who currently teaches pathology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine. He had started at the University of Texas in 1958 intending to become a lawyer, but changed his mind after three years and decided to become a medical doctor. He scrambled to take the necessary science courses in his remaining year. So with four years of coursework, but not his bachelor’s, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis waived the undergraduate degree requirement and admitted him.

After eight years as a Navy physician, he had a private practice for 29 years before joining the UNC faculty. But his love of history — especially medical history, continued to grow over this time, and three years ago, he decided to complete his bachelor’s degree in history, saying “it just felt like things were incomplete.”

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