A day to remember: graduation 2010

Des Moines University’s 110th commencement was a mixture of joy, excitement and sadness over the loss of a DMU friend.

Gabriele Conn, flanked by DMU Interim President Stephen Dengle and Provost Karen McLean, accepts an honorary degree on behalf of her father, Peter Pintus. The Holocaust survivor tragically died five days before commencement

The joy and excitement, of course, were felt by the 466 degree recipients – the largest graduating class in DMU’s history – and hundreds of family members, friends, faculty and staff. Keynote speaker Thomas Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and two-term Iowa governor, congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to be both “healers and leaders” in three areas: addressing the “crisis” of chronic disease, revitalizing rural America and serving the under-served in other countries.

“There is work to be done by trained, qualified and committed healers,” said Vilsack, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree at the ceremony for his career in public service. “You, too, can help in doing this to reshape America’s view in terms of the rest of the world and to reshape the rest of the world’s view of America by contributing to a sense of community, of giving something back…to help heal those around the world who are in need.”

Peter Pintus

Commencement participants also felt sorrow: Peter Pintus, a Holocaust survivor who was to receive an honorary doctor of humane letters at the ceremony, unexpectedly died just five days earlier on May 24. He was honored posthumously.

A Des Moines resident since 1964, Mr. Pintus used his life experiences to teach lessons of tolerance, understanding and forgiveness. A hospital chaplain, Episcopal deacon and – most recently – assistant to the rabbi at Temple B’nai Jeshurun, he addressed students and faculty for several years at DMU’s annual Holocaust remembrance.

DMU honors a pioneer and a professor

During commencement weekend, Harry Elmets, D.O.’46, was honored posthumously with the University’s Pioneer Award for his 55 years of service as a professor and 31 years as a DMU trustee. A founding member of the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), which he twice served as president, Dr. Elmets worked to open doors to osteopathic physicians in the Des Moines medical community. He served on the staffs of nearly all the hospitals in the city and headed the dermatology departments at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Iowa Lutheran Hospital and Broadlawns Medical Center. In 1980, the College of Osteopathic Medicine named him Alumnus of the Year, and in 1994 he received an honorary doctor of science degree from the University. Dr. Elmets died in 2004.

Priti Lacy, Ph.D., was recognized with the title professor emerita. She joined DMU’s anatomy department in 1986 and retired on June 30, 2009. Although mostly known for teaching the neuroanatomy course, she taught and developed courses in other subdisciplines and academic programs; was a leader in developing computer-aided instruction to enhance student learning; and provided outstanding service to the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the University and the profession.

He came a long way for his degree

They came a long way, baby: Moises Aponte Cartagena and his wife, Idamaris Santiago, with sons Adriel, left, and Moises.

The week before commencement, Moisés Cartagena Aponte, his wife, Idamaris Santiago, and sons Moisés and Adriel celebrated his upcoming graduation by enjoying local attractions including the Science Center of Iowa and Adventureland amusement park. As they should – after all, they’d traveled more than 2,300 miles to get to Des Moines.

Cartagena, a physical therapist and instructor at the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao, chose to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy to better help patients and to comply with the American Physical Therapy Association’s expectation that all physical therapists have doctoral degrees in the discipline by 2020. He discovered DMU’s post-professional doctor of physical therapy program on APTA’s website.

“I was looking for a D.P.T. program that offers distance learning, so I could finish it here and continue working,” he says.

DMU’s P.P.D.P.T. program and master’s programs in public health and health care administration can be completed with courses on campus, online or a blend of both. In his program, Cartagena came to campus twice – in February 2008 for a manual therapy course and for commencement this May.

“I decided to participate because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I want to share this event with my family,” he said before traveling to Des Moines. “It is the culmination of a long, formal educational career.” He deserved to celebrate. Cartagena’s first language is Spanish, so he “spent a lot of hours” translating and proofreading from English to Spanish and vice versa. Like many other online students across the country and around the world, he had to track his classmates’ time zones to complete group assignments.

“I had to readjust my sleep hours because in many instances, projects were done in groups, and I had to wait during the night for their feedback to submit my assignments,” he notes.

Still, Cartagena is “thankful” for the “great experience” and glad to be part of the Class of 2010.

“I really enjoyed the accessibility of the faculty during all my courses and the constructive teaching style,” he says. “Working in groups with my classmates taught me the importance of collaborative work in our profession. The program gives me tools to be a better physical therapist and a better health care provider.”

11 things we love about commencement

  1. Very happy students!
    –Matthew Henry, Ph.D., associate professor and interim chair, physiology and pharmacology
  2. Speaking to the graduating students [who] are very grateful and indicate they were well-prepared for rotations.
    –Roberta Wattleworth, D.O.’81, M.H.A.’99, M.P.H.’04, chair and professor of family medicine
  3. Shaking the hand of every one of the students as they walk across the stage, assured that the health care they will provide is second to none.
    –Kendall Reed, D.O., FACOS, FACS, dean, College of Osteopathic Medicine
  4. The looks on the faces of family members as their graduate passes down the aisle.
    –Stephen Morain, J.D., DMU trustee
  5. [It’s] a reminder of our primary goal and objective – educating tomorrow’s health care providers.
    –Traci Bush, P.T., O.T.R./L, D.H.S., program director and associate professor, doctor of physical therapy program
  6. I most loved the time when I was able to hood my son upon his graduation from COM in 1989. That was the best.
    –James Grekin, D.O.’62, FACOI, chair, DMU Board of Trustees
  7. I know deans aren’t supposed to cry, but when I see the pride and love in the parents’ eyes at the awards banquet or after the commencement ceremony, I have to fight my emotions. It is truly a joyous occasion for everyone.
    –Jodi Cahalan, Ph.D., M.P.H.’01, M.S.’93, PA-C’89, dean, College of Health Sciences
  8. From the platform, looking at the audience of over 3,000 people and all of the colors.
    –R. Tim Yoho, D.P.M., FACFAS, dean, College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery
  9. The excitement that is shared with the students and their families on the campus of DMU at the time of graduation makes me proud and appreciative to be a trustee.
    –Arthur E. Angove, D.O.’62, DMU trustee
  10. To see such talented and compassionate individuals graduate so that they may help others is such an amazing experience for me.
    –Joy Schiller, M.S., DMU wellness director
  11. Can there ever be a single time in one’s life when the joy of accomplishment blends with family pride, and love and hope for the future come into such focus?
    –Max McKinney II, D.O.’69, immediate past chair, DMU Board of Trustees
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