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Senior Banquet

Remarks by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Saratoga Springs City Center
Saratoga Springs, NY

Friday, May 17, 2013


Good evening to the Rensselaer Class of 2013. Welcome to Saratoga Springs, and welcome to the Senior Banquet. What a delightful city in which to celebrate! Saratoga Springs was one of America’s first great resorts, so celebration always has been the business of life here.

Before I continue, allow me first to offer a few acknowledgments. Will all members of the Class of 2013 Council please rise, and remain standing for a moment? Will the Class President and Vice President, Class Representatives, Class Senators, and Associate Members please stand?

I want to thank each of you for your commitment and dedication to the Class of 2013. In particular, I thank Class President Chris Newhard for his leadership, and Senior Week Chair Mack Carroll for arranging this lovely evening. We tip our hats to you. Please join me in a round of applause.

One week from tomorrow, we will meet in the stadium of the East Campus Athletic Village for our 207th Commencement ceremony. On that day, we and you will be focused on the future, as you begin the next stage of your lives. But tonight, it is difficult not to be slightly wistful, as we mark the past four years and all the memories you have created. So please indulge me as I take a short stroll with you down Memory Lane.

It is fitting that our Commencement is at ECAV, as yours is the first class to enjoy that facility throughout your time at Rensselaer. It officially opened, as you know, in October of your freshman year.

Indeed, yours is a class of “firsts.”

The Class of 2013 was the first to welcome a Class Dean and the first to have the Sophomore Year Experience—all part of our comprehensive approach to student life called Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students, better known as CLASS.

Your first-ever Senior “Bucket List,” which enumerates 50 of the most distinctive and delightful things to do at Rensselaer, is an example of how our CLASS approach has helped you to immerse yourselves more fully in your college experience. Number 2 on that list, by the way, is to take a photo with me. I am not certain whether to advise you to aim higher in future endeavors—or to be flattered in the extreme. Thank you.

In fact, your school spirit shines through in many ways. For example, your fellow students owe the Class of 2013 a debt of gratitude for your creation of what I hope will be a lasting legacy: the Food for Finals study break in the Union. And the Class of 2013 also had a big hand in helping to create weR: The Spirit of Rensselaer Society.

Of course, like college students of every generation, your memories of Rensselaer forever will be intertwined with major news events. Your freshman and sophomore years were marked by two catastrophic earthquakes—first in Haiti, and then 14 months later, in Japan, which, as we know, was followed by a tsunami. And your junior and senior years were marked by two devastating hurricanes: Irene and Sandy.

Some of the major events during your college years showed a darker side of technology and of humanity: There was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill when you were freshmen and, of course, the Boston Marathon bombing, just one month ago.

But it was our response to these terrible events, and the ways in which we banded together to help those in need, that demonstrated the positive side of human nature. I sincerely hope you will remember the goodness of the Rensselaer community when you think back on the news stories that characterized your time here.

And that is life, is it not? Unpredictable, challenging, often demanding reserves of strength that we are not entirely certain we even possess. But, as you may have observed already of yourselves, we generally do rise to the occasion when we most need to. We have endeavored at Rensselaer to prepare you for the ups and downs that you will encounter on the road ahead. I hope we have helped you to hone the vital skills that will serve you well throughout your lives: leadership, and perseverance, and teamwork.

Finally, I applaud the Class of 2013 for its innovative class gift—a fully functional Rubik’s Cube, four-and-a-half feet on a side, which, when completed, will be mounted in the Class of 2013 lounge at the end of the DCC Great Hall. The goal was to create a place where students can relax between classes, and to feature something unique, interactive, and somehow representative of the Rensselaer student body. I particularly am pleased that, in creating your gift, you have brought together students, alumni, alumnae, faculty, and staff in a manner that reflects our interdisciplinary focus. Thank you!

Our dinner tonight kicks off Senior Week, which I am sure will be a busy and memorable one for all of you. I hope you cherish every moment. In earning a degree from Rensselaer, you have achieved something momentous.  So, frankly, you deserve the fun!

Thank you for joining me here, and please enjoy the rest of this wonderful evening!


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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