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Scripps Day, a celebration of achievement and a family reunion all in one, drew some 500 visitors in its debut on June 20.

The event recognized the accomplishments of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego students and researchers and invited the institution’s friends, alumni, and staff to see what’s new on campus. Held in conjunction with UCSD commencements, the occasion gave Scripps the chance to recognize 2008’s slate of degree recipients.

“It was such a thrill to see so many Scripps folks celebrating as well as returning alums who have been away for some time marveling at all that is happening at the institution now,” said Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps and chair of the Scripps Day organizing committee.

Visitors took in the Scripps Pier and toured the Scripps Collections. Birch Aquarium also granted free admission to Scripps Day participants.

Some 30 former Scripps students came to the event, traveling from as far away as Great Britain and Greece. A pair of them took the stage on Pawka Green at an afternoon recognition ceremony to recount how the institution shaped them as scientists and people.

“As part of the Scripps family, our greatest role may be the one we play off campus when we represent Scripps in other arenas, both scientific and non-scientific,” speaker Christina Massell-Symons, who received her doctorate in earth sciences from Scripps in 2002, told current Scripps students.  “You’re part of an incredible, innovative, and passionate family.”

Massell-Symons joined Scripps physical oceanographer Walter Munk on stage to represent recent graduates and those well into their careers. Munk, who dressed appropriately for the hot June afternoon in a “Scripps casual” Hawaiian shirt, recounted stories of his early days at Scripps, noting that it was a fleeting romance with a girl more than 60 years ago that brought him to La Jolla in the first place. Munk’s romance with Scripps, he said, has endured to this day.

Following remarks from UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, who also sported a Hawaiian shirt, Scripps Director Tony Haymet used the occasion to announce that the building currently known as the Nierenberg Hall annex or NTV will be renamed Fred N. Spiess Hall in memory of the co-founder of Scripps’s Marine Physical Laboratory.

Haymet said afterward that he predicts the event will come into its own as it becomes an annual affair.

“Perhaps it was the weather, but I got a strong sense that Hawaiian shirts might be the emerging tradition, with Walter and the chancellor leading the way,” Haymet said. “Perhaps next year’s graduates and Walter should mold that tradition.”

Organizers have set June 12, 2009 as the date of the next Scripps Day.

— Robert Monroe

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