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A UW-Green Bay education passes the eye test, commencement speaker Carroll ’97 tells graduates

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Commencement speaker Joseph J. Carroll, Ph.D., a rising star in the world of ophthalmology research, told the Class of 2014 at UW-Green Bay Saturday that he has always believed his college education was a terrific investment.

Carroll is a 1997 Human Biology graduate of UW-Green Bay who today is an associate professor of ophthalmology, biophysics, cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and a widely published researcher on human vision and the cellular structure of the eye.  He congratulated the more than 600 new grads in attendance on the wisdom of their college selection.

“The key word is ‘value,’” he told them. “You’ve just gotten the best value of your life. Trust me. Better than the dollar menu at McDonalds.”

In his address to an audience of nearly 5,000 at UW-Green Bay’s Kress Events Center, Carroll praised the University’s faculty members, calling them not only amazing educators, but definitive experts in their respective fields.

He recalled his own positive experiences with faculty including Andy Kersten, Donna Ritch (and her “infectious passion for biology that has stuck with me”), Forrest Baulieu and even Prof. Harvey Kaye, who Carroll said “unintentionally helped steer me away from sociology by giving me a bad grade.”

He acknowledged there’s a tendency to think a small- to mid-size public university might not offer the same educational quality of bigger and “bigger-name” school, but quickly added that he believes UW-Green Bay “is second to none.”

“The truth is, I would take my UWGB education over one from Marquette, Harvard, Stanford, Duke, you name it, any day of the week.  Not only was it a fraction of the price, but in my time as a graduate student and as a post-doctoral fellow, and now as a faculty member at the Medical College of Wisconsin, I have interacted with students from colleges and universities all over the country. Some of them have been smarter than I, and most were better looking, but never once have I felt that they were better educated or better prepared to succeed.”

Carroll said it’s always a thrill to return to campus, which has undergone major changes since he graduated in 1997.

“Walking around campus, I reminisce about the countless hours I spent working and playing pool in what is now the Phoenix Club, relaxing in the “people pockets”, playing golf at Shorewood where a chance encounter with an optometrist inspired me to pursue a career in eyeballs, or watching the men’s basketball team enter the national spotlight with three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, and upsetting Cal in the first round 20 years ago.”

He closed his address by returning to the theme of being intellectually prepared for life’s challenges — “The Prepared Mind” of his talk’s title — and told them to be alert to opportunities and new people and places.

“If you are constantly surrounded by the same people and things, you can’t expect new opportunities to just show up. So don’t wait for opportunities to find you, create them. Actively seek them out.

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