“One of the most enjoyable aspects of our Honors Convocation is the fact that it includes such a range of ages and accomplishments, from distinguished faculty members being named to endowed chairs or professorships, to our Rensselaer Medalists, who were recognized for being outstanding students of mathematics and the sciences in their respective high schools—and now are enrolled in their freshman year here,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson during her remarks to the audience. “This is important because a great university is a multi-generational community of learners, engaged together to learn, to generate and disseminate new knowledge, and to use their knowledge, skills, and abilities to make a difference for themselves, and for the world.
“Excellence is a mindset that many of our highest achievers adopt in childhood—and in such people,
that drive for excellence persists through a lifetime.” —President Jackson
“This event endorses and affirms the idea that excellence is not a destination,” President Jackson added. “Excellence is a process—dependent on making decisions throughout life to try a little harder, to find the deeper layers of concepts, to look more closely at experimental data, and to, on occasion, accept the risks that come with exploration. Excellence is a mindset that many of our highest achievers adopt in childhood—in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, or in a backyard where nature is observed. And in such people, that drive for excellence persists through a lifetime. To be excellent means to have high standards. Quality does not emerge from checking all the boxes. People who strive to excel go beyond what is required.”
Parents, family, and friends looked on as Rensselaer Medalists, students with a 4.0 GPA, undergraduate awardees, graduate fellowship awardees, and faculty members were honored during the ceremony held in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) Concert Hall.
Faculty members who have received endowed chairs were recognized. They are: Michael Amitay, an internationally recognized expert in the field of fluid dynamics and flow control, who was named the James L. Decker ’45 Endowed Chair in Aerospace Engineering; Farhan Gandhi, rotorcraft and adaptive structures expert, who has been named the Rosalind and John J. Redfern Jr. ’33 Professor of Engineering; Yuri Gorby, a geomicrobiology expert, who has been named the Howard N. Blitman ’50 P.E. Career Development Professor in Engineering; Nikhil Koratkar, a nanomaterials expert, who has been named the John A. Clark and Edward T. Crossan Professor of Engineering; and Linda Schadler, an expert in nanomaterials and polymers research, who has been named the Russell Sage Professor.
The 2012 Founders Award, the ceremony’s highest honor, was given to 85 students who were chosen for “creativity, leadership, discovery, and the values of pride and responsibility.” In addition, 202 members of the Class of 2016 who are Rensselaer Medalists also were honored. The Rensselaer Medal is awarded to the top math and science juniors at nearly 4,000 high schools around the world.
President Jackson also noted that celebrations like the Honors Convocation are an important event at Rensselaer. “It demonstrates that we hold academic achievement in the highest esteem, President Jackson said. “It expresses our heartfelt desire to celebrate and take pride in the contributions that our faculty and students make to the intellectual life of this university and the betterment of the world.”
Photos by Kris Qua