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A renowned pediatric neurosurgeon told 550 graduating students at Niagara University on Sunday that his mother often turned off the television set and had him read a book.

She also required him to write book reports for her, and only later did he learn that she couldn't read.

Dr. Benjamin Carson Sr., head of pediatric surgery at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, told of his rise from poverty in Detroit, where he had poor grades and got into fistfights after his father abandoned his family. Thanks to his mother, he received a full scholarship to Yale and earned a medical degree at the University of Michigan.

Carson, who specializes in surgically separating twins, gives back to his community by endowing the Carson Scholars Fund for promising youngsters in the Washington, D.C., area.

"Operating is important," he said, "but it's great when you can help people understand that real success has nothing to do with houses, money or cars, but with developing your God-given talent so that you become valuable to the people around you."

Erie County Legislator Mark J.F. Schroeder, D-Buffalo, spoke at Trocaire College's commencement in Kleinhans Music Hall.

He reminded students of the values instilled by the Sisters of Mercy, the nuns from Ireland who founded Trocaire in 1958.

"On Thursday, Feb. 11, 1858," the onetime history major said, "Bishop John Timon, the first bishop of Buffalo, invited and welcomed a group of four Sisters of Mercy to a poor little parish on Fulton Street in Buffalo. On the very same day, our Blessed Mother left her heavenly throne to appear to a simple French peasant maid by the name of Bernadette in Lourdes. This is your history."

More than 700 Genesee Community College graduates were told Sunday that "each and every one of you has the capacity to touch and affect others, limited only by your talents and ambition."

Robert L. King, chancellor of the State University of New York, spoke during the Batavia-area college's 35th commencement.

"One job you all share," the former assemblyman and Monroe County Executive said, "is being an adult-educated citizen where every day your response is to get involved."

A doctor of humane letters degree was conferred on Charlotte W. Conable, wife of Barber B. Conable Jr., longtime congressman and former World Bank president, of nearby Alexander.

She was honored as an outstanding women's historian, author and advocate.

"My lifelong ambition is to help women and girls," she said in accepting the honor.

State Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville, presented a legislative proclamation lauding her "for seeing needs and pursuing the fulfillment of those needs."

Genesee Correspondent Bill Brown contributed to this report.

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