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News & Events

05-14-2000

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey And Kodak Board Chair George Fisher Address Clarkson University Graduates

More than 600 students from 22 states, 17 countries and 55 of New York's counties were granted bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at Clarkson University's Commencement today (May 14).  (Nearly 185 more students received degrees at an earlier ceremony in December.) More than 4,000 parents, relatives and friends attended the ceremony. The weekend was also marked by the commissioning of United States Army and Air Force officers on Saturday, May 13.   

Receiving honorary degrees and making short speeches at the ceremony were Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Jane F. Garvey; Eastman Kodak Chairman of the Board George M.C. Fisher; Alcoa Inc. Human Resource Director for Executive Staffing and Leadership Development and Clarkson Trustee Elizabeth A. Fessenden; and retired URS Greiner Woodward Clyde Senior Vice President and Clarkson Trustee Eugene D. Jones.

Chemistry Professor Linda A. Luck of Plattsburgh was awarded the John W. Graham Jr. Faculty Research Award. This $1,500 research account is presented to "a faculty member who has shown promise in engineering, management, liberal studies, or scientific research."

Accounting and Law Professor Katherine H. Wears of Ogdensburg was awarded the Clarkson University Distinguished Teaching Award. The $1,500 prize is given "in recognition of the importance of superior teaching" by nomination of alumni and by selection a faculty committee.

Senior Kathryn Johnson of Fairbanks, Alaska, was given the Levinus Clarkson Award, and senior Matthew R. Allen of Ogdensburg, was given the Frederica Clarkson Award. Both are $1,000 prizes, awarded by vote of the full faculty to "a student who demonstrates the best combination of scholarship and promise of outstanding professional achievement."

Jane Garvey said, in part, "… don’t confuse having a career with having a life. They’re very different... But I suggest to you today that there is one question that’s much more important than ‘What are you going to do with your life?,’ and that is ‘How are you going to live your life?’ Because the fact is, you’re all about to enter a world where you’ll no longer be judged by your grades, but by your character.  By the promises that you keep and the changes that you shape. By your guts and by your heart.  In short, you’ll be judged by what kind of citizen you are.

“Many years ago, when I sat where you were sitting, President Kennedy challenged my generation to fight for civil rights, to join the Peace Corps, to explore space.  And now, it’s your turn.  Take some risks.  Take some chances.  Never turn down a new experience unless it’s against the law or it’s going to get you into real big trouble…”

“When I graduated, I didn’t know where life would take me.  But I promised myself that I’d never play it safe, and I’ve kept that promise. And as you prepare to leave this wonderful University, my deepest hope is that you won’t play it safe either—that you’ll rise to every challenge. That you’ll pick yourself up every time you fall and you’ll stand your ground, and when necessary, stand conventional wisdom on its head…”

George Fisher said, in part, “… I might refer to Albert Einstein as source material… because once upon a time, at an event like this, he did say this: ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.’

“And that really is what bright, well-educated people do. Ideally, they make life simpler for all of us by unraveling mysteries, in the case of science; by solving problems and, hopefully, by easing humanity's burdens.

“… I tell you that making everything simple is also what bright, capable businesspeople do so much of the time.  George Eastman, who was the founder of Eastman Kodak, perhaps said it best in our industry when he says, ‘We must live by “You press the button. We do the rest."’  In so doing, he hid very complex technology and created a company based on ease of use, a principal that many of our high-tech brethren would do well to remember.

“… simplicity really doesn't come easy necessarily.  The grace of a talented ballet dancer looks effortless, looks easy. But we can't, in fact, see the years of training that go behind that flawless performance. Likewise, in our industry, taking a beautiful, sharp photograph hides all the sophistication of the science and that engineering go behind a four-dollar roll of film.

“In fact, in the early years of my career at Bell Labs, as we tried to ascertain what research topics were worth looking on, we developed the notion that we called the ‘natural state of communications.’  People like you and me are enabled with sight, sound, touch – capabilities of our senses, which, in fact, have only been encumbered by the limitations of our technology with things like keyboards, flickering displays and wires. It is, in fact, technology’s intent and purpose to simplify our lives to work more appropriately with our humanness.

“And there is still so much in our lives today, as all of you know, that lacks clarity, simplicity or ease of use.  And there is so work that lies ahead for this graduating class, so much that you can contribute…”

Elizabeth A. Fessenden said, in part, “Tomorrow you will wake up and you will no longer be under the invisible dome that has sheltered you, nurtured you, isolated you and defined your community for the last four years. You will join a global community…

“When you think about what it takes to be a global leader, most of you will recognize the fundamental need for global business savvy: understanding market opportunities and competitive conditions, knowing how to leverage movement in exchange rates, selling and sourcing globally, marketing to accommodate local cultures, and so on.

“Just as fundamental, however, are several leadership characteristics that are desirable in successful global leaders. All leaders must be able to build alliances with people, both inside and outside of the organization. A global leader is one who successfully builds alliances with people of different cultures, ethnicity and race, nationality, religion and gender. There are four characteristics I’d like to share with you:

“A successful global leader is inquisitive and welcomes learning opportunities, is energized when surrounded with diversity—different people, languages, cultures, foods, customs.  To develop this, be open-minded. Cultivate your sense of adventure. Push yourself to be curious about that which you do not know. Don’t ever stop learning.

“A successful global leader must be able to connect, on an emotional level, with people from various backgrounds. This connection is built when you show an interest and concern, when you listen well and when you can understand and respect differing points of view. Making the emotional connection as a leader earns you respect and commitment from those whom you want to follow you.  It is a powerful skill.

“A successful global leader is grounded in personal and professional values. It is your actions that demonstrate your integrity.  Don’t compromise yourself; integrity is one of your most valuable assets.   A consistent demonstration of high ethical standards, in personal and company matters, in any part of the world, increases trust.  People who trust you are more apt to follow you. It’s having followers that defines a leader.

“A successful global leader is capable of managing uncertainty and changing conditions and of tolerating ambiguity in situations.  With a tolerance for ambiguity, you will find yourself more comfortable in a foreign culture. You will be more effective in working with people from different backgrounds different from you and creating followers from this group of people. It’s having followers that defines a leader.

I encourage all of you to be a global leader.  A leader who is inquisitive, one who is capable of connecting with a diversity of people, a leader who demonstrates integrity and one who tolerates ambiguity.  Do this, and you will gain commitment from people around the globe, they will follow you and that will define you as a global leader…”

Eugene Jones said, in part, “… First, understand and appreciate technology.  Speaking as an engineer, its presence is felt in every part of your life today and it always will be.  Treat it as a resource and ally.  Enhance it with your special view of its impact on our everyday lives.

“Second, keep an open mind.  It’s the only way to keep your outlook fresh and to make decisions that aren’t weighed down by biases and preconceived notions.

“Third, believe in your ideas and be persistent in pursuing them.  You can’t persuade others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.

“Fourth, to those of you who are both politically active and vocal, consider politics as a useful calling.  There is an old saying that says, ‘Democracy is not a spectator sport.’ You can make it work more efficiently.  America as well as other countries are always looking for good leaders.  You could be among them.

And finally, be honest with yourselves and with those around you.  Whatever you do in life, you and those you deal with can only benefit if you maintain the courage that is honesty’s prerequisite… “

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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