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KNOXVILLE — Dr. Harry Y. “Hap” McSween, University of Tennessee Distinguished Professor of Science and former head of geological sciences, will speak at UT’s fall commencement at 9 a.m. Saturday, December 15 in Thompson-Boling arena.

McSween’s research on meteorites has helped scientists learn more about the solar system. He was a science team member of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions, and will be working on the Mars Exploration Rover mission in 2003.

Dr. Hap McSween

An advisor to NASA and the National Research Council, McSween was president of the Meteoritical Society and chaired the Planetary Division of the Geological Society of America.

He won the Leonard medal, the top award in planetary science, in 2001. He has won two Chancellor’s Awards and the Alexander Prize at UT.

This fall’s graduation ceremony marks a change in UT’s commencement routine, Tammy Murphy, UT assistant registrar, said.

Students will not walk in at the start of the ceremony, but will be pre-seated beforehand, Murphy said.

An orange tube containing a letter from UT Acting President Eli Fly will replace the fake diplomas handed out at previous commencements, she said.

Law and doctoral graduates will be recognized, but the traditional “hooding” ritual conducted at past commencements will be done in a special ceremony Friday.

“These changes will shorten the length of commencement and continue to make it more personalized and dignified,” Murphy said.

More than 1,700 degrees are to be conferred Saturday.

A breakdown of the 1,259 candidates for undergraduate degrees by college shows: 101 in agricultural sciences and natural resources; 548 in arts and sciences; 239 in business administration; 117 in communications; 49 in education; 69 in engineering; 109 in human ecology; five in architecture; four in nursing; one in social work.

The breakdown of graduate degrees is: 407 masters; eight doctor of education; 74 doctor of philosophy; seven education specialists; and nine law.