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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Remarks at the 2018 Senior Banquet

Category: Regional
May, 2018
Marriott Hotel

2018 Senior Banquet

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

Good evening.

Tonight, we are celebrating the wonderful connections we all have forged over your time at Rensselaer, and the wonderful global community you soon will join, as Rensselaer alumni and alumnae.

I want to begin by acknowledging the leaders within a class full of leaders—so please stand and remain standing a moment. Will President Brenna Buckley, Vice President Reed Freeman, Gift Chair Hunt Gazecki, and all the members of the Class of 2018 Council, Class Representatives, Class Senators, and Associate Members please stand?

I want to thank each of you, and all of you, for your service to Rensselaer and to your classmates. In particular, I thank President Buckley for arranging this lovely evening and the events of the week to come.

I thank, as well, Class Dean Jennifer Forbes and Assistant Director of Student Activities Maria Roberts for supporting the great Class of 2018—and for steering them to so many wonderful opportunities.

Next, it is my privilege to recognize six outstanding members of the Class of 2018 whom we honor this evening with Senior Class Awards:

First, the Shakuntala Devi and Krishna Deva Malaviya Public Service Award recognizes a graduating student who best exemplifies sustained excellence and selflessness in the service of others over his or her academic career. I am pleased to name Hannah Rabinowitz as the 2018 recipient of this award.  

The Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students (CLASS) Award recognizes a member of the graduating class who, as a leader, exemplifies the ability to solve complex challenges through intellectual agility, multicultural sophistication, and a global view. I am pleased to name Erin Arthur as the 2018 recipient of this award. 

The Willie Stanton Award is presented to the senior who is judged to have contributed the most to the service of the student body. I am pleased to name two seniors, former Grand Marshal Paul Ilori and Rasika Ekhalikar, as the 2018 recipients of this award. Unfortunately, Paul is unable to join us this evening due to a travel delay.

The Leopold L. Balleisen Class of 1918 Prize recognizes a senior who has won a varsity letter in his or her senior year and one other year, and among of those qualified, stands highest academically in the senior class. I am pleased to name Steven Collins, captain of our men's soccer team, as the 2018 recipient of this award. 

The Livingston W. Houston Citizenship Award recognizes character, leadership, scholarship, and athletic ability. I am pleased to name Danielle Sauve, captain of the women’s swimming and diving team, as the 2018 recipient of this award. 

Please join me in congratulating these remarkable young men and women.

It is hard to believe that it was four years ago that you sat before me at the East Campus Athletic Village on the eve of your first day of college classes—about to begin a new and exciting journey.

I recall that your excitement was tempered somewhat by apprehension—perhaps you recall that as well. You were leaving a familiar life for an unknown one, so, of course, there were a few butterflies!

And with the intention of converting your uncertainty to joy, I made two suggestions that evening.

First, I suggested that you have confidence in your abilities. I reminded you that we had selected you for admission at Rensselaer because you had shown to us that you were exceptional, and despite the fact that college would be rigorous, we knew that you were up to the challenge.

Next, I suggested that you look at the remarkable people in the seats around you and have confidence in them, as well. I assured you that they represented a strong network that would help you to succeed here.

I predicted the following about your classmates:

  • That some of them, you would study with;
  • That some you would feel competitive with, and that this would spur you to reach heights you could not yet imagine;
  • That some among them, with backgrounds that were different from yours, would open your eyes to new aspects of life;
  • That some would make you laugh, when you most needed a laugh; and
  • That among them were people who would become your lifelong friends.

Were my predictions accurate?

You are so fortunate to have each other!

Now, as you face another moment of uncertainty, and head off to graduate school and brilliant careers in all corners of the Earth, you do so armed with your connections to each other—with your shared experiences, collective wisdom, and joy in each other’s achievements. 

On Saturday morning, I will have the great pleasure of awarding you your diplomas, and shaking your hands, as you prepare to make the transition, once again, from a familiar life to an unknown one.

Please allow me to make three suggestions: First, be confident. You have a Rensselaer education now, and that will always help you to stand out, wherever you go. Second, keep in touch with each other. Rensselaer people are very special, each considered individually. But together—they are a force to be reckoned with! Finally, stay connected with your alma mater—talk it up and support it. In doing so, you support future generations of young people like yourselves.

Your class gift highlights that you do indeed value your connections, not just with each other, but with Rensselaer students to come. You have chosen to supplement the Student Relief Fund, which was established by the Class of 2017 to ensure continued enrollment for students in the event of financial hardship. You have told us that this gift "has the potential to make or break a student's professional career, by allowing him or her to maintain continuity" at Rensselaer. I thank you for your wisdom and generosity.

Congratulations, Class of 2018! I hope that you enjoy all of the wonderful Senior Week activities—I am told there even will be an opportunity to continue to spur each other to new heights at the Adirondack Extreme Challenge aerial adventure course tomorrow morning! And I hope you will join me on the dance floor after dinner this evening for the grand Rensselaer tradition of the Electric Slide!