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Author of 'The Eerie Silence' to speak at Liberal Arts and Sciences convocation

ASU Professor Paul Davies
May 12, 2010

Graduates Carl Catedral and Gregorio Montes de Oca to provide student remarks

Internationally acclaimed cosmologist, theoretical physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies, author of the recently released book “The Eerie Silence,” is the featured speaker at this spring’s convocation for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

Two separate ceremonies to accommodate the large number of graduating students and their guests will be held May 14 in Wells Fargo Arena on ASU’s Tempe campus. Davies will speak at both ceremonies.

Known for circumnavigating the globe as a provocative speaker, Davies delivered the 1995 Templeton Prize address in Westminster Abbey in front of the tomb of Isaac Newton. He also is a prolific author of 28 books, both popular and specialty works.

A professor in the college’s department of physics, Davies heads up two pioneering research institutes at ASU: BEYOND, the Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, a cosmic think tank; and the exciting new Center for the Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology.

His research is steeped in the branches of physics that deal with quantum gravity – an attempt to reconcile theories of the very large and the very small.

Professor Davies is a native Londoner and among his teaching posts in the UK and Australia, he was a professor of natural philosophy, the old name for physics. Davies joined the ASU faculty in 2006, just months before his 27th book – “The Goldilocks Enigma: Why the Universe Is Just Right for Life” – came out on store shelves. His newest book, “The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence,” explains why we’ve spent so much time and money searching for ET but have nothing to show for it after 50 years.

Among his other books are: “How to Build a Time Machine,” “The Origin of Life,” “The Last Three Minutes,” “The Mind of God,” “The Cosmic Blueprint” and “The Big Questions.”

“Paul Davies has a reputation for addressing some of life’s big questions, including: Are we alone in the universe? Can we travel in time? Are there aliens right under our noses?” says Quentin Wheeler, ASU vice president and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“ASU President Michael Crow once remarked that ‘Paul Davies is one of the world’s most exciting thinkers.’ We think so and are excited to have him address this spring’s graduates and their families and guests,” Wheeler says.

The numbers

An estimated 3,052 ASU students are scheduled to graduate this spring with degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Of those, an estimated 2,683 will receive bachelor’s degrees, 262 will receive master’s degrees and 97 will earn doctoral or terminal degrees.

Top undergraduate majors in the college – by the number of graduates – are communication (339), psychology (298), political science (244), biological sciences (233), English (164), kinesiology (154), family and human development (135), history (119), biochemistry (109) and sociology (106).

Among the largest number of degrees to be awarded at the graduate level are English, communication disorders, geography, urban planning, biological sciences, liberal studies, psychology, justice studies, history and physics. The top five doctoral degrees are in the fields of anthropology, chemistry, English, justice studies and mathematics.

Convocation ceremonies

Nearly a quarter of the students at ASU pursue degrees through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, often viewed as the intellectual heart of the university. It is the largest and most diverse college at ASU, encompassing the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and life sciences.

Because of its size, the college will hold two convocation ceremonies May 14 – one at 8 a.m. (Maroon Ceremony) and another at 11:30 a.m. (Gold Ceremony) – in Wells Fargo Arena on ASU’s Tempe campus. More information is at

Student speakers

The convocation student speaker for the Maroon Ceremony is Gregorio Montes de Oca. He is graduating with degrees in political science and Transborder Chicana/o Latina/o Studies. Montes de Oca has been a teaching assistant for associate professor Edward Escobar, and an educational tutor with Martin Porres Educational Services in Phoenix, where he tutored K-8 students in the subjects of mathematics, reading comprehension, English, science, social studies and spelling.

Montes de Oca’s research as an undergraduate student focused on the prison industrial complex, investigating the mental and psychological transformation of prison inmates deemed menaces to society during the late 1960s and early 1970s prison rebellion years. He has served as a senator in Undergraduate Student Government and a member of the College Council. Montes de Oca plans to complete a master’s degree in teacher education to pursue his goal of being a high school English teacher, and, maybe one day, the Arizona state superintendent of public instruction.

The convocation student speaker for the Gold Ceremony is Carl Catedral, who also is a student in Barrett, the Honors College at ASU. His honors thesis examines migration and the inter-religious impact of the Filipino diaspora. Catedral is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies and a certificate in Asian Pacific American Studies.

He has been a College Ambassador and a representative in the Asian/Asian Pacific American Student Coalition. Additionally, he organized the “Faceless Generation” event, which acknowledged the voices of students who are often unrecognized or unheard because they may not fit into dominant cultural perspectives. Catedral has applied for Teach For America with the intent of serving students in low income communities. He also would like to pursue a graduate degree and further research the Filipino diaspora.

Also participating

In addition to Dean Wheeler, other members of the college administration who are participating in the convocation ceremonies include: Deborah Losse, dean of humanities; Linda Lederman, dean of social sciences; Sid Bacon, dean of natural sciences; Robert Page, dean of life sciences; Cheryl Conrad, associate dean for research in natural sciences; Paul LePore, associate dean; Gerry Corey, senior assistant dean; Teresa Bales, assistant dean; and Barbara Colby, assistant dean.

The master of ceremonies is Michael Dorman, a professor in ASU’s Department of Speech and Hearing Science. Reading the names of the graduates as they walk across the stage to be recognized will be faculty members: Peter Lafford, Barbara Lafford, Helene Ossipov and Mark James. The soloist is Allison Stanford, a doctoral student of music.

Also, honor guards from military science (Army ROTC) and aerospace studies (Air Force ROTC) – two academic units in the college – will present colors at the ceremonies.