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18 years and 60,000 names later ...

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published May 5, 2006


[Courtesy of USF University Relations]
Stuart Silverman has gotten quite good at reading hundreds of names — many of them difficult to pronounce — in a single day.

TAMPA — Stuart Silverman took on the job in 1988 because his boss asked him to, and who says no to the boss?

Eighteen years and 60,000 or so names later, Stuart Silverman still stands on stage at the Sun Dome every spring, summer and fall to read the names of graduating University of South Florida students.

He’ll be there this morning, after taking two Alleve pills and drinking lots of hot tea. But he won’t be doing it for his boss.

“It’s the students, stupid,” the framed sign above his desk declares.

“I do it because I stand there, and I am part of their lives for that moment,’’ said Silverman, 61, dean of USF’s Honors College. “You look at their faces, and you see all they’ve gone through to get there.’’

Besides, Silverman has gotten quite good at reading hundreds of names — many of them difficult to pronounce — in a single day.

He knows, for example, that some pronounce the Vietnamese name Nguyen as “new-yen.” Others pronounce it more like “when.”

Above all, he has learned not to take for granted names that look simple. It might look like “Jane,” but the namesake could very well say it “Juh-Nay.”

“The object is just to say it smoothly,’’ Silverman said. “I think about 2,000 probably leave the ceremony and say,

'That son-of-a-gun got every name right except mine.’’

His track record is better than that. But the names haven’t gotten any easier over time.

Today, for example, he will try to pronounce last names like Mohomed, Mehranipornejad and Diyabalanage. First names run the gamut from Erin, Sandra and Jermaine to Thushara and Lakshminarayan.

USF officials say they can’t imagine anyone better suited to the task than Silverman, a native New Yorker whose easygoing manner and quick humor endear him to students.

His office is adjacent to the lounge where honors students hang out. After 36 years at USF, he has accumulated hundreds of mementoes from students who appreciated how much he cares.

There are stuffed animals, ceramic figurines, wood carvings, paintings, rocks from far-off destinations like Israel and France, and beautiful vases.

“He’s so much fun,’’ said Ludis Garcia, 21, who is graduating Saturday. “Students pass by just to talk to him. He goes out of his way to help us.’’

Wednesday, Garcia stopped at Silverman’s office to get the green and gold honors tassles she will wear for graduation today.

“Here you go, Miss Garrrrrrrrrr-cia,” Silverman said. “Ludis Garrrrrrrrr-cia.”
She giggled.

“Dr. Silverman, if you say it like that at graduation, my family will laugh.”

“But I’m just practicing the trill,” he teased. “Garrrrrr-cia!”
Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3403 or svansickler@sptimes.com.

[Last modified May 5, 2006, 19:39:56]


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