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05-07-2011

Over 700 Students Receive Degrees at Clarkson University's 118th Commencement Ceremony

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/commencement2011.jpg.]

More than 700 Clarkson University students from 27 states, 20 countries and 55 New York state counties were granted bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at Clarkson University’s 118th commencement today, Saturday, May 7. (Nearly 200 additional students received degrees at an earlier ceremony in December.)

Students process at Clarkson University's 2011 CommencementThe weekend was also marked by the commissioning of United States Army and United States Air Force officers on Friday.

Receiving honorary degrees and making short addresses were:

- Bernard Amadei, the founding president of Engineers Without Borders - USA and professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he holds the Mortenson Endowed Chair in Global Engineering

- Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, professor of pediatrics emeritus at Harvard Medical School and founder of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Children's Hospital in Boston, one of the world’s foremost authorities on pediatrics and child development

- John Lancaster, treasurer and a member of the board of trustees of Handicap International Federation and recently retired executive director of the National Council on Independent Living

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer also addressed the graduates.

Schumer gave thanks to the Navy Seals, the military, he intelligence agencies, and to both presidents Bush and Obama for their roles earlier in the week, and then told the graduating class, "As you go out into the world, try and find a profession -- a job -- that you really love." He then spoke to the students of his early life experiences and summed up by saying, "There are two tests in life... the Monday morning test and the Friday afternoon test. When you wake up Monday morning, do you feel in the pit of your stomach that you really want to go to work? And when you go home Friday afternoon to your family, do you say I can't wait to go home? ... If you can yes to both of them... then God has been good to you -- don't complain... It's my hope, it's my prayer, and it's my confidence, that you'll pass both those tests with flying colors."

"Now that you have had that taste of education, now that your journey into the world is starting I am going to ask you to think about your responsibility especially to the world," said Amadei. "With great power comes great responsibility. I want you to think about how you can make the world a better place. I want you to think about how you are going to make this world more sustainable. What is a sustainable world? Well, a sustainable world is a world that is equitable. It is a world that is compassionate and more importantly it is a world that is made peaceful.

"I know for sure that the engineering profession has to do something about really making the world a better place. It is no longer an option for us. It is an obligation. Not only for engineers, but for everyone on this planet.

"My assignment for you is to find your mission statement in life. My assignment for you is to find your unique gift in life. What is that gift that the Divine gave you so that you can make the world a better place? So over the next few weeks, or over the next 30 years, 40 years, 50 years -- whatever you have -- please sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and among friends and write down your mission statement . What are you here to do? I don’t know a single company that does not have a mission statement. Write your mission statement. Find your gift. And walk that gift. Make that gift a reality."

In addressing the graduates, Brazelton said, "I started the Brazelton Touchpoint Center in Children’s Hospital in Boston and we use trained professionals to assist underprivileged parents all over the country and to look for and demand the assistance they need to give children the best future they can conceive of. And now, we have 160 sites around the country and we are affecting the lives of nearly 3 million children and families and touchpoints are the way we do it.

"By using these vulnerable times, these touchpoints -- the times you pull back, reorganize and become prepared for the next step -- we can reach out for these vulnerable families at such a time and make a difference to them and their children’s future. And I think all of you are facing one of these touchpoints and I hope you’ll use it.

"You can achieve what you want in your own future if you are willing to set your goals high, to work hard, to be resilient when you need to deal with adversity and you will find out it’s so rewarding when you finally get there."

Lancaster told the class of 2011, "One night, in the midst of chaos, a single AK-47 round pierced my lungs and hit my spinal column. Life had thrown me one big curve ball... an unalterable change, and put in front of me seemingly endless barriers I would not be able to overcome.

“... With this [family] support, the backing of our U.S. Veterans Administration, a law degree at Notre Dame, and my wife Christine, I began to realize that my past does not own me and that I need not be... defined by things that happened more than a decade before. Instead, I realized that the past is of little consequence and really has little bearing, if any, on what may or may not happen tomorrow.

“What is useful about the past is the lessons, the skills and the tools it provides you to create that which has not yet happened. I used this realization to build a career around working for the civil and human rights of disabled veterans and people with disabilities. I learned to live in the present and not the past. I learned not to let misfortunes and personal failures define my future or to rest on the laurels of success and accomplishment...

“We do not even have control or power over the present; we can only recognize the opportunity that this moment presents. …So enjoy the moment, relish it, and stand in it armed with your accomplishments, your knowledge, your skills, your history, your Clarkson education. Stand in it with an open mind, courage, foresight and determination to create the next moment, the next present, the next future, and ultimately the next edition of history.”

Silvana Andreescu, an associate professor of chemistry and biomolecular science in the School of Arts & Sciences, was the recipient of the John W. Graham Jr. Faculty Research Award. The $1,500 research account is presented to "faculty members who have shown promise in engineering, business, liberal arts or scientific research."

Kathleen A. Issen, an associate professor of mechanical & aeronautical engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering, was awarded the Clarkson University Distinguished Teaching Award. The $1,500 prize is given "in recognition of the importance of superior teaching." Candidates are nominated for the award by Clarkson alumni and the final selection is made by a faculty committee.  

Senior Xiaojing Fu (Ruby) of Changsha, China, was awarded the Levinus Clarkson Award, and senior Emily A. Stefano of East Amherst, NY, received the Frederica Clarkson Award. Both are $1,000 prizes given to "a student who demonstrates the best combination of scholarship and promise of outstanding professional achievement."

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[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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