Remarks at Dinner for Honorary Degree Recipients

Category: University Events
May, 2017
President’s Residence

Dinner for Honorary Degree Recipients

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

I am delighted to welcome you to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and to the President’s Residence on the occasion of our 211th Commencement.

Soon, I will introduce our honorands, and ask each of them to say a few words. Allow me first to introduce some of the other special guests who are here.

As I say your names, please stand, and remain standing, so that we may honor you as a group.

First—the members of the Board of Trustees of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:

  • Chair Arthur F. Golden ’66
  • Vice Chair Wanda Denson-Low ’78
  • Dr. George Campbell Jr.
  • Mr. Jeffrey L. Kodosky ’70
  • Dr. Mark M. Little ’82
  • Ms. Nancy S. Mueller
  • Dr. Janet C. Rutledge ’83
  • Mrs. Paula L. Simon ’68
  • Emeritus Trustee Dr. Cornelius J. Barton ’58
  • And their guests.

Next—the members of my Cabinet:

  • Dr. Prabhat Hajela, Provost
  • Mr. Craig A. Cook, Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel
  • Dr. Jonathan S. Dordick, Vice President for Research, and the Howard P. Isermann '42 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Mr. Graig Eastin, Vice President for Institute Advancement
  • Ms. Virginia Gregg, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer
  • Ms. Richie C. Hunter, Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations
  • Mr. John Kolb ’79, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer
  • Dr. Lee McElroy, Associate Vice President & Director of Athletics
  • Mr. Curtis Powell, Vice President for Human Resources
  • Mr. Claude Rounds, Vice President for Administration
  • Mr. Jonathan D. Wexler, Vice President for Enrollment Management
  • And their guests.

Now, please allow me to introduce the members of the Dean’s Council:

  • Dr. Tom Begley, Dean of the Lally School of Management
  • Dr. Curt Breneman, Dean of the School of Science
  • Mr. Evan Douglis, Dean of the School of Architecture
  • Dr. Shekhar Garde, Dean of the School of Engineering
  • Dr. Mary Simoni, Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
  • Dr. Stanley M. Dunn, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education
  • Dr. Linda Schadler, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education
  • Dr. Aric Krause, Dean for Academic and Administrative Affairs for Rensselaer at Hartford
  • And their guests.

I also thank my husband, Dr. Morris Washington, and my son, Mr. Alan Washington, for being here today.

Now it is my privilege to introduce Mr. Arthur F. Golden ’66, Chair of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees.

I hope you enjoyed the Colloquy this afternoon.

I am delighted that our graduates, before they move off into the world, had the opportunity to see, at the Colloquy, our honorands in conversation: two delightful, insightful people at the very pinnacle of their careers, because they possess both expertise and intellectual agility, and because they are extraordinarily able to take the long view, and to be calm and creative at critical moments.

Before I recognize the Honorable Roger Ferguson, I would like to thank his wife for joining us, Ms. Annette Nazareth. She is a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, where she leads the trading and markets practice within the Financial Institutions Group. Her distinguished career in financial services regulatory matters includes ten years at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, where she served as Commissioner from 2005 to 2008.

Thank you, Ms. Nazareth, for joining us.

I am very pleased that our graduates have had the opportunity to encounter Dr. Roger Ferguson’s empathetic leadership style, before they go out in the world to lead, as well.

While he has made the toughest of decisions in the very toughest of moments—and triumphed—he speaks of his accomplishments in startlingly humble terms. His career, in a financial realm that, often, is ruthlessly self-interested, is clearly one of service, dedicated to improving the prospects of millions of Americans.

I believe that there are a number of people here tonight, who would like personally to thank him, for the returns TIAA has delivered to their retirement accounts.

Dr. Ferguson, please join me at the podium.

We are very grateful to have you here. Thank you, Dr. Ferguson.

Before I introduce our Commencement speaker, the Honorable Ernest Moniz, please allow me to say how pleased we are to have his wife with us, Dr. Naomi Moniz, Associate Professor of Portuguese Emeritus at Georgetown University.

Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Moniz.

It has been a great pleasure to welcome Secretary Moniz to Rensselaer. A longtime member of the MIT faculty, and a longstanding friend and professional colleague, he clearly is one of us, with a clear understanding of the Academy, and with an abiding faith in the power of technology to address challenges of great scale. I enjoyed the remarkable privilege of serving on the Secretary of the Energy Advisory Board, during his tenure as the United States Secretary of Energy, under President Barack Obama.

Secretary Moniz has had a remarkable career, one that began inside the atom—and expanded exponentially outwards from science into statesmanship.

On climate, energy security, and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, he has led us into a much safer and more rational future.

Like all great statesmen, he is a man of disarming personal style and charm, as I am sure you discovered this afternoon…

Secretary Moniz, please join me at the podium.

We are proud to have you with us this evening. Thank you, Secretary Moniz.

Tomorrow, at Commencement, we will bestow an Honorary Doctorate of Science on Secretary Ernest Moniz, and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws on Dr. Roger Ferguson.

This has been a remarkable day. I thank each of you and all of you for being here to celebrate our honorands, our Commencement, and our graduates—as we launch the Class of 2017 into the world.

We challenge our students with one simple question, “Why not change the world?” We thank our honorands for showing us, and our graduates, that it can be done. We look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow morning. Enjoy the rest of this lovely evening.