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Posted 06/13/03, by James Donnelly
Dartmouth flies the Benatovs from Sofia, Bulgaria, for Commencement
Six weeks ago, when Dartmouth's Latchezar Benatov learned that he was among the select group of students in the running to become Dartmouth's next 2003 valedictorian, he was asked whether his parents would be attending commencement ceremonies in Hanover. Benatov, who is from Sofia, Bulgaria, explained that the cost of international travel and the difficulty of obtaining visas would prohibit his parents, Latchezar Sr. and Maria Benatov, from making the trip.
The Dean's office told me that they thought it was a real shame my parents wouldn't be coming," Benatov explained. "Then things started happening, and I learned that Dartmouth was going to make it possible for them to come."
The College paid for airfare and worked with Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire to secure visas on short notice.
According to Benatov, it can take as long as six weeks to meet with embassy representatives in Bulgaria to obtain a visa. Benatov's parents got a meeting in 10 days.
"Everything worked perfectly. They flew into Boston and the College hired a limousine service to meet them and bring them to Hanover," Benatov said.
Like many other parents of graduating seniors, Benatov's parents spent some of their time in Hanover helping him to pack. Neither of Benatov's parents had ever been to the United States before.
In his valedictory address Benatov thanked the College for helping to make his parents' trip possible and spoke of what it was like to come to Dartmouth from so far away.
"Four years ago, I came to Hanover from Bulgaria, a small but beautiful country in southeastern Europe that had only recently opened its frontiers after decades of political isolation," Benatov said. "Having never been to the U.S. before, I hardly knew what to expect from Dartmouth [but] on the very first day I stepped in Hanover, my fears were alleviated."
Benatov will return to Bulgaria for a month this summer, after conducting research at Yale for the next six weeks. He plans to begin a doctoral program in physics at Yale in the fall.
As an undergraduate, Benatov earned a 3.99 grade point average and citations in seven classes. Benatov was an early Phi Beta Kappa inductee and a member of the Golden Key Honor Society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. A double major in physics and math, he is fluent in Bulgarian, English and French, and speaks some Russian and Hebrew.
Speaking of the importance of creativity in life and of maintaining friendships across distances, Benatov implored his classmates to keep in touch.
"Sbogom, i dano se vidim pak skoro," he said in closing. "Or, in English, 'Farewell, and see you all again soon!'"
- James Donnelly
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