Meet the Class of 2012
An Overview of Rensselaer’s 206th Commencement
This year, 1,613 will receive degrees from Rensselaer on Saturday, May 26, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the East Campus At hletic Village (ECAV)
stadium. They represent the next generation of leaders, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, patent holders, game designers, architects, and innovators, in fields ranging from engineering to architecture, from fine arts to science, from game design to information technology, and from business to the military.
During the Institute’s 206th Commencement ceremony, Rensselaer will award a total of 1,742 degrees. They include: 357 master’s degrees, 136 doctoral degrees, 1,249 bachelor’s degrees. Some graduates have earned more than one degree.
Please Note: All degree numbers and facts include both August and December 2011 graduated students. This information does not include the Hartford campus. All numbers cited are as of May 21, 2012, and are subject to change.
A Global Community
In 2012, graduating students come from more than 40 states, in addition to New York. The Class of 2012 contains graduates from 24 other nations, including: Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Greece, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, India, Macau, Nicaragua, SouthKorea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey.
The Commencement Speakers Are …
The Honorable Bart J. Gordon, J.D., former Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technolog will deliver the 2012 Commencement Address.
Congressman Gordon is a leader in U.S. science, technology, energy, and health policy, and champion of the America COMPETES Act, which authorizes federal investments in innovation and innovators. Currently a partner at K&L Gates LLP, he served for 26 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, from Tennessee. As Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Gordon built bipartisan support for enactment of the America COMPETES Act, helped craft the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, and was a leading proponent of America’s space program, and of enhancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
The Honorable Steven Chu, Ph.D., United States Secretary of Energy, distinguished scientist, and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997), will also address the class. Charged with implementing key components of President Obama’s energy agenda since 2009, he has devoted his recent scientific career to the search for new solutions to energy challenges and stopping global climate change. Previously he was Director of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Professor of Physics and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and he held positions at Stanford University and AT&T Bell Laboratories. The holder of 10 patents and author of nearly 250 published scientific and technical papers, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and numerous other civic and professional organizations.
Honorary Degree Recipients
The Honorable Bart J. Gordon will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the ceremony. The Honorable Steven Chu, Ph.D., will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Rensselaer also will award honorary degrees to three other outstanding individuals. The Honorable Antonin Scalia, J.D., Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. He is the longest-sitting member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a self-described “originalist,” interpreting the U.S. Constitution by beginning with the text, and giving that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted. Edward A. Feigenbaum, Ph.D., pioneer in artificial intelligence and renowned computer scientist, will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. He is a recipient of the “Nobel Prize of computing,” the ACM Turing Award of the Association for Computing Machinery, for pioneering the design and construction of large-scale artificial intelligence (AI) systems, demonstrating the practical importance and potential commercial impact of artificial intelligence technology. Dr. Feigenbaum is the Kumagai Professor of Computer Science Emeritus at Stanford University. Steven J. Sasson ’72, M.S. ’73, inventor of the digital camera and related imaging technologies that have transformed the industry and the world, will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. An electrical engineer, now retired from the Eastman Kodak Company, he revolutionized the way images are captured, stored, and shared. Sasson was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2010), the highest honor for technological achievement bestowed by the President of the United States. In 2011 he was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.
Class President Robert Sobkowich, a student who majored in civil engineering, will also address the class. At Rensselaer, as class president, the Amsterdam, N.Y., native worked alongside the Class Council to increase school pride, and organized a series of class events.
Sobkowich also carved out time to serve in several other organizations. As a resident assistant and director, he was responsible for the safety and well-being of undergraduate and graduate residents, as well as leading a staff of fellow resident assistants. Sobkowich was also one of the many students who rolled up their sleeves to assist in clean-up and fundraising efforts to support RPI Relief. The program is focused on raising awareness and funds, as well as coordinating volunteer initiatives when disaster strikes an area.
A Strong Legacy
The Rensselaer degree is well-known throughout the world as a symbol of technological excellence and achievement. Rensselaer alumni are leaders. They are collaborative, able, and smart. This year, 195 members of the Class of 2012 are Rensselaer “legacies,” students with relatives who attended the university.
Continuing Academic Excellence
Many graduates will continue their studies after graduation. Among the schools that graduates will be attending are: Albany Medical College, Brandeis University, Clemson University, Columbia University, Cornell University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Royal Holloway University of London, Stanford University, Tufts University, Yale University, and Rensselaer.
Preliminary results indicate that Rensselaer students are still getting good jobs within the Capital Region, across the nation, and also overseas.
Some of the companies where Rensselaer graduates will work include: Amazon.com, American Cancer Society, Apple Inc., Bloomberg, Boeing, Corning, ESPN/
Disney, Intel, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NYSE Euronext, Oracle, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Rolls Royce, Sandia National Laboratories, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and St. Jude Medical.
“Today’s employers have put an increased emphasis on experiential opportunities as a pipeline to full-time professional employment,” said Colleen O’Byrne, acting director of the Center for Career and Professional Development. “As the employment landscape has improved, we have seen an increase in the opportunities for students who carved out time while studying at Rensselaer to gain experience through summer internships and co-op assignments. Despite market dynamics, Rensselaer graduates have always proven to be resilient and resourceful.”
Student Service, Leadership, Scholarship Honored
During the May 18 Senior Banquet, several graduating seniors were honored for their contributions to the Institute. The Willie Stanton Award, presented to the senior (s) judged to have contributed the most in service to the student body, was awarded to Deonna White, a psychology major from Feura Bush, N.Y., and Brandon Graham, a geology major from Bradford, Penn. The Livingston W. Houston Citizenship Award, honoring the “first citizen of the college,” ranking high in character, leadership, scholarship, and athletic ability, was awarded to Carly Antonucci, captain of the women’s swim team, and a materials engineer from Long Valley, N.J. The Leopold L. Balleisen Prize, honoring a senior student athlete who has won a varsity letter in at least one sport during two undergraduate years and who stands highest academically in the senior class, was awarded to Brandon Kieft, a member of the men’s indoor track and field team, and a computer and systems engineering major from Essex, Vt.
Each year at Commencement, the graduating class presents the university with a unique and spirited gift. The Class of 2012 is excited to unveil a newly designed seating area and updated signage around the ’87 Gym. The area includes two limestone benches as well as three new signs that will match the signage seen around the East Campus Athletic Village and other areas around campus. Carved onto the benches, one can read the following quote written by Lord Chesterfield: “If we do not plant knowledge when young, it will give us no shade when we are old.”
Members of the Class of 2012 have already raised more than $3,900 to support the ’87 Plaza. To date, 357 members of the class, representing 35 percent, have donated funds to support the project. In addition, 17 students became Patroons of Rensselaer with their gifts of $100 or more.
Darrin Counseling Award Winner
Burt Swersey, longtime senior lecturer in the in the department of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, has been selected as the 38th recipient of the David M. Darrin ’40 Counseling Award, which will be presented during the Commencement ceremony. The award was established by David M. Darrin ’40 to recognize a faculty member who has made an unusual contribution in the counseling of undergraduate students. The selection of the award recipient is made by Phalanx, Rensselaer’s student leadership honorary society.
In recognizing Professor Swersey, members of the Rensselaer community cited his exceptional drive to push students to far exceed their wildest dreams both in the classroom and in business ventures. One nominator said that “his advisement on starting their businesses is unparalleled.” Several nominators also noted that his “techniques of motivating students and keeping them engaged is unlike any other professors they have ever had.” Another nominator said that “with 24 years dedicated to student advising, counseling, and mentoring at Rensselaer, he has demonstrated special concern for the welfare of undergraduate students.”