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Commencement to feature Robertson, McNabb

By Larry Hincker

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 14 - November 30, 1995

James I. "Bud" Robertson Jr., alumni distinguished professor of history, will be the Fall 1995 Commencement speaker at the university ceremony on December 16, and F.M. Anne McNabb, professor of biology and long-time supporter of the graduate-education mission, will be the speaker at the master's and doctoral degree ceremony on December 15.

Robertson, noted Civil War historian and popular teacher, was the top choice of the student selection committee.

The university began what many hope will be a new tradition with last year's Fall Commencement. Students nominate Virginia Tech professors held in high regard by the student body and send the nomination to the president. Both the undergraduate and Graduate School ceremonies will feature university faculty members as speakers. "There is strong symbolism in sending off graduates with an address by one of the university's own faculty," said President Paul Torgersen.

Robertson teaches the largest Civil War history class in the United States, with an average of 300 students each semester. His teaching renown is such that the Alumni Civil War Weekend featuring Robertson has sold out each year since its inception four years ago.

Robertson has won every major award given the in field of Civil War History. His published books include General A.P. Hill (a History Book Club main selection), Soldiers Blue and Gray (a Pulitzer Prize nominee), and Civil War: America Becomes One Nation (winner of the American Library Association's Best Book for Young Readers Award). His most recent book is a collaborative study with noted artist Mort Kuntsler entitled Jackson & Lee: Legends in Gray. An in-depth biography of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson has been accepted for publication by Simon & Schuster.

McNabb's teaching has ranged from Principles of Biology for first-year students to graduate-level courses in physiology. Her teaching is enriched by her research on development of thyroid function and how thyroid hormones influence the development of other tissues and organs.

She is author of Thyroid Hormones, a research-level textbook in the Prentice Hall "Advanced Endocrinology Reference Series." She also has 60 research publications, book chapters, and major reviews, serves on the editorial boards of three journals, and is chair-elect of the Division of Comparative Endocrinology of the American Society of Zoologists. She has chaired the university's Commission on Research and is a member of Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc.'s board of directors.

But it is her years of support of the university's graduate-education mission that resulted in her being called upon to speak to students whose interests she has had at heart. In addition to having trained both master's and Ph.D. students in her own laboratory, McNabb served as assistant department head for graduate studies in biology from 1980-1987--recruiting students, evaluating programs, and managing and coordinating technical aspects of the program. She has also served on the university's Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies; chaired the College of Arts and Sciences subcommittee on student development (graduate and undergraduate), and chaired the American Society of Zoologists' Committee on Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Affairs, which presented society-wide programs on ethics in science, job identification and application after the Ph.D., and how graduates should look ahead to the pre-tenure period.

The university ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec.16, in Cassell Coliseum.

The Graduate School ceremony will be at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, in Burruss auditorium, with the processional beginning at 2:15 p.m. Although there has been a separate doctoral hooding ceremony in the spring, this is the first time that there has been a separate ceremony in the winter, and the first time that master's students will be included in what is now the graduate ceremony. More than 160 doctoral students and 300 master's students are expected to participate.