Rosemary Blieszner, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Human Development, associate director of the Center for Gerontology, and associate dean of the Graduate School at Virginia Tech; and Elsa A. Murano, professor and president emerita at Texas A&M University, will deliver the keynote addresses at Virginia Tech's 2009 fall University and Graduate School Commencement ceremonies to be held Friday, Dec. 18.

Blieszner will address undergraduate students at the University Ceremony at 11 a.m., and Murano will speak at the Graduate School Ceremony at 3 p.m., both at Cassell Coliseum. Approximately 2,500 students will be honored for completing their academic degrees at the end of the summer and fall terms at the two events.

Previous University Commencement speakers and Graduate Commencement speakers at Virginia Tech may be found online.

University Commencement Speaker: Rosemary Blieszner

Blieszner joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1981 and currently teaches courses in adult development and aging to undergraduate and graduate students and is administrator of the Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. She has taught hundreds of undergraduate students and chaired the advisory committees for eight Master of Science degree students and 19 Ph.D. students.

In 1998, she received the university’s Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence, and in 2002, she was named Alumni Distinguished Professor, a position held by 10 faculty members at the university. In 2000, she received the Alumni Recognition Award from The Pennsylvania State University’s College of Health and Human Development.

Blieszner conducts research on family and friend relationships, life events, and psychological well-being in adulthood and old age. With colleagues at Virginia Tech, she is investigating the effects on families of having a relative diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Her other current work focuses on the contributions of spirituality to resiliency in old age.

Her research has been funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, AARP Andrus Foundation, U.S. Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is co-author of four books and co-editor of three others. In addition, she has published 31 chapters in edited books and 62 research articles in gerontology, family studies, psychology, sociology, and personal relationships journals.

She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, Gerontological Society of America, and National Council on Family Relations. She currently serves as editor-in-chief of Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

Blieszner has served on many university governance committees, held office in several national and international scholarly organizations, presented lectures for community groups, served on church committees, volunteered in local schools, and had ongoing involvement with the Community Foundation of the New River Valley and the Montgomery County Christmas Store.

A native of Pittsburgh, Blieszner completed her Ph.D. at The Pennsylvania State University. She received her master’s degree from Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree from Mercyhurst College.

Graduate Commencement Speaker: Elsa A. Murano

Murano is president emerita of Texas A&M University where she served as its 23rd president. She was the first woman and first Hispanic-American to lead this major university, where she is currently a professor of nutrition and food science.

When she was two years old, Murano’s family fled Cuba after Fidel Castro seized power. After living in several Latin American countries until she was 14, her family settled in Miami, Fla. At that time, she spoke only Spanish, but quickly became bilingual in English and launched an educational career that carried her through to her doctorate, which was earned, along with her master’s degree, at Virginia Tech.

Upon graduation in1990 she became an assistant professor at Iowa State University. In 1995, she joined the Texas A&M faculty as an associate professor in the Department of Animal Science and associate director of the Center for Food Safety. She was named director of the center in 1997 and quickly rose to the rank of professor in a named professorship position in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In 2001, President George W. Bush asked her to serve as undersecretary for Food Safety for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, making her the highest-ranking food safety official in the U.S. government. President Bush also appointed her to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, which advises the U.S. Agency for International Development on agricultural development priorities and issues.

She returned to Texas A&M in 2005 in the joint positions of vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. As vice chancellor, she led a transformation of agricultural programs and four state agencies within the Texas A&M University System.

Murano has been principal investigator or co-principal investigator in research projects totaling more than $8.7 million. She has been widely published, as author or co-author of seven books, book chapters or monographs, and scores of scholarly papers, abstracts and related materials.

She earned her master’s degree in anaerobic microbiology and her Ph.D. in food science and technology from Virginia Tech. She is married to Peter S. Murano, associate professor of nutrition and food science and director of Texas A&M’s Institute for Obesity Research and Program Evaluation.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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