U.S. Surgeon General and Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin, who began her medical career as director of a nonprofit medical clinic in a poor community of rural Alabama, stressed the importance of service and the power of an individual to effect change in her address to the Rensselaer Class of 2011 on May 28.
“People are going to trust you and respect you because you have a prestigious college degree. They’re going to look to you as a leader and with that comes a responsibility: the responsibility to be a leader,” Dr. Benjamin said.
Dr. Benjamin, one of the world’s leading experts on public health and a key figure in the national debate on health care reform, addressed graduates and their families at Rensselaer’s 205th Commencement, held in the stadium at the Institute’s East Campus Athletic Village.
Dr. Benjamin received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the ceremony. G. Wayne Clough, the 12th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, received an honorary doctor of engineering degree. Samuel F. Heffner Jr. ’56, who launched a career in the real estate development business that has spanned nearly 50 years, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Heffner was a member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees for 33 years and served as board chair for 15 years, retiring in December 2010.
Pointing to the uncertainty pervading current eventswith reference to the economy, recent natural disasters, and the high cost of energyPresident Shirley Ann Jackson said in her address to the graduates that it is clear we face challenges “of both national and global dimensions.” Rensselaer graduates, she continued, must rise to meet those challenges.
“We need new solutions to the challenges of our times, and we also need to implement the solutions, often in the face of resistance. In other words, we need people of courage to become architects of change and agents of change. People like you,” said President Jackson. “Many would like for things to stay the way they are, but the challenges we see in the world demand renewal.”
During the Institute’s 205th Commencement ceremony, Rensselaer awarded 1,338 bachelor’s degrees, 398 master’s degrees, and 130 doctoral degrees.
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