Inside Rensselaer
Spring Town Meeting Held;  Commencement Honorands Announced
President Shirley Ann Jackson held a campuswide town meeting on March 17 at which she highlighted recent special events and announcements, gave a summary of progress under the guidance of The Rensselaer Plan, introduced new faces to campus, provided an overview of the budget for Fiscal Year 2009, and gave highlights of the planned celebration for the opening of EMPAC in October.

President Jackson also discussed new plans to enrich Student Life, leveraging the current success in the First-Year Experience, living and learning initiatives, and the arts to transform the overall undergraduate student experience.

Spring Town Meeting Held;  Commencement Honorands Announced
Left to right: political analyst, editor, best-selling author, and Harvard professor David Gergen; president of Princeton University Shirley M. Tilghman; veteran Marine Corps astronaut and space shuttle pilot Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr., USMC (Ret.)
A high point of the Town Meeting was the announcement of this year’s Commencement speaker and honorands. David Gergen, political analyst, editor, best-selling author, and Harvard professor, will deliver the 2008 Commencement address on May 17 at 9:30 a.m. on the Harkness Field.

Gergen also will receive an honorary degree at the ceremony, together with distinguished molecular biologist and president of Princeton University Shirley Tilghman and veteran Marine Corps astronaut and space shuttle pilot Major General Charles Bolden Jr., USMC (Ret.).

“As our students prepare for the transition of graduation, and as our nation prepares for a transition in our national leadership, these distinguished honorees represent the best of what change can bring,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Each of our guests brings a valuable perspective to the way we view the impacts on our society of the national political debate, of the technological leadership we exercise, and of the rapid evolution of our higher education system. I am delighted to have them participate in our 202nd Commencement to show our graduating students how they can change the world.”

Gergen has spent his professional life immersed in American politics. He has worked on both sides of the political aisle as director of communications for President Ronald Reagan and counselor on foreign policy and domestic affairs to President William Clinton. He also served as an adviser to the Nixon and Ford administrations. His early experience in the political power struggle gave him a unique, bipartisan perspective on political leadership that served him well as a political journalist, and later formed the basis for his best-selling book, Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton.

Gergen is currently a professor of public service at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of its Center for Public Leadership. He also serves as editor-at-large for U.S. News & World Report, where he coordinates and authors high-level political coverage for the magazine. In addition, he makes regular appearances on television and radio, offering his political expertise on programs that range from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

A native of Durham, N.C., Gergen received degrees from both Yale University and the Harvard Law School. He served in the United States Navy, is an active participant in the nonprofit sector, and currently is chairman of the National Selection Committee for the Innovations in American Government.

In 2001, highly accomplished molecular biologist and educator Shirley Tilghman became the 19th president of Princeton University—the first woman to hold the position. Prior to becoming president, Tilghman served as a member of the faculty at Princeton for 15 years. During her long career as a researcher she made a number of important scientific breakthroughs related to gene behavior and development, including participating in the cloning of the first mammalian gene. Tilghman is a national advocate for the advancement of women in science and has worked to promote efforts that encourage and enable young scientists to make the most of their early careers. Among other honors, she is a winner of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science and the Society for Developmental Biology’s Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 2007, was named one of America’s best leaders by U.S. News & World Report.

Major General Charles Bolden Jr. became an astronaut in 1981 after serving 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a pilot during the Vietnam conflict. After his selection by NASA, Bolden participated in four space flights, logging more than 680 hours in space. He served as pilot of both the January 1986 Space Shuttle Columbia mission and the April 1990 Space Shuttle Discovery mission, and as mission commander of the April 1992 Space Shuttle Atlantis mission and the February 1994 Space Shuttle Discovery mission. He retired in 2003 after almost 35 years on active duty in the Marine Corps after serving as Commanding General of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing in San Diego, Calif. He now shares his knowledge on leadership with students and other leaders around the country.

For the full text of President Jackson’s Town Meeting remarks, go to
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 5, March 21, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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