Inside Rensselaer
President’s Colloquy To Feature Commencement Honorands
May 27

US. Surgeon General and Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin — one of the world’s leading experts on public health and a key player in the national debate on health care reform — will deliver the main address at the 205th Rensselaer Commencement on May 28. Dr. Benjamin will receive an honorary degree, along with fellow honorands G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and Samuel F. Heffner Jr. ’56, who recently retired from the Rensselaer Board of Trustees after 15 years as chairman and 33 years as a member.

The three honorands will join President Shirley Ann Jackson in the 2011 President’s Commencement Colloquy on Friday, May 27, beginning at 4 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. To RSVP for the colloquy, go to

All four Colloquy participants will focus on the question: What can committed innovators across different sectors teach us about how best to meet the great challenges of our time?

The title of the event is “The Architecture of Change: Action to Impact.” According to President Jackson, the Rensselaerean ideal is to take on the problems of the day and find practical solutions. But action must be predicated on a clear understanding of the core mission and values of any endeavor. With this foundation established, the potential for renewal and reinvention allows us to build on past achievements, while adapting to a changing world. All four Colloquy participants will focus on the question: What can committed innovators across different sectors teach us about how best to meet the great challenges of our time?

Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., MBA, is the 18th Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service. Since her appointment by President Barack Obama in 2009, she has been a forceful leader in the national effort to migrate the United States health care system from one focused on sick care to one targeting wellness and prevention of illness. She is the founder and former CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama. She was named by Time magazine as one of the “Nation’s 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under” and was the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. A member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in 2008 Dr. Benjamin received a MacArthur Fellowship — the “Genius Award.”

“In the course of her distinguished career, Dr. Benjamin has set an extraordinary example for health care professionals, becoming a role model for using advanced science and education in the service of one’s community and those most in need,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to honor her and two other distinguished leaders. They will bring to our graduates and their families at Commencement noteworthy accomplishments in the diverse and critically important fields of science, health, history, higher education, and architecture.”

G. Wayne Clough, Ph.D., the 12th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, leads the world’s largest museum and research complex. Clough has envisioned a new era for the Smithsonian, expanding its global relevance and helping the nation shape its future through research, education, and scientific discovery on major topics of the day. To ensure its vast collection is accessible and available, he is leading the effort to digitize much of the 137 million objects in the collection and use the World Wide Web and Smithsonian experts and scholars to reach out to new audiences in the United States and around the world. Before his appointment to the Smithsonian, Clough was president of the Georgia Institute of Technology for 14 years, where he completed a building program of more than $1 billion that incorporated sustainable design. Clough is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Samuel F. Heffner Jr. ’56, B.A., launched a career in the real estate development business that has spanned nearly 50 years. He is the founder and president of Dickinson-Heffner Inc., a building and land development firm that has developed several million square feet of office and industrial space in the Baltimore region, primarily in the vicinity of Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport. He has served on numerous civic boards and is a founder and former chair of the BWI Business Partnership Inc., devoted to the fostering of economic and transportation interests by businesses in the BWI area. He was a member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees for 33 years and served as board chair for 15 years, retiring in December 2010.

The Commencement ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. on May 28 at the East Campus Athletic Village on the Rensselaer campus.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 9, May 13, 2011
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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