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Senior Banquet

“An Extraordinary Sense of Connection”

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

Saratoga Springs City Center
Saratoga Springs, NY

Monday, May 19, 2014


Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the Senior Banquet, and welcome to Saratoga Springs.

Saratoga Springs was one of the first great resorts in the United States. The city has been accustomed to mass influxes of fun-seekers, since the railroad first came here in 1831. I daresay, however, that Saratoga seldom has seen such a lively, brilliant, and engaged group as the Rensselaer Class of 2014. You are, collectively, quite a force!

Before I delve into the properties of this force, allow me first to offer a few acknowledgments. Will all members of the Class of 2014 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, and all of you, for your service to Rensselaer and to your classmates. In particular, I thank Class President Michelle Lamberta for her leadership, and Senior Week Chair Lauren Laing for arranging this lovely evening.

On Saturday, we will meet in the stadium of the East Campus Athletic Village for our 208th Commencement ceremony. We will honor your commitment to your education and the achievement of Rensselaer degrees with the formality they demand.

However, before the pomp, there is the madness that is Senior Week. Have you been enjoying it thus far?

Those of us who lead Rensselaer, and work for your benefit, have noticed a few rather special characteristics about the Class of 2014. First of all, your sense of connection to the Institute and each other is extraordinary.

Class participation in Senior Week events has been not so much participation, as a barely controllable outpouring. The remarkable number of you here this evening offers but one example.

In fact, over 350 of you have signed up for the unveiling of the Class gift tomorrow. The gift itself represents an unusual sensitivity to the stream of daily life at Rensselaer. After observing students regularly plopping onto the floor of the Great Hall of the Darrin Communications Center, to talk or to study, you decided to give your successors a more comfortable place to sit, in the form of built-in benches.

I suspect that many great friendships and many great ideas that will change the world will be launched on those benches. On behalf of all the Rensselaer students yet to come, I thank you.

The Class of 2014 has a keen awareness, not merely of the pulse of current times at Rensselaer, but also, the arc of your own history—and the 190-year history of the Institute.

On Saturday, some of you took a sentimental journey back to the YMCA Silver Bay Camp Ground, which you had visited nearly four years earlier as incoming freshmen, as part of Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond. I hope that, as you were delighting in the great beauty of Lake George, you enjoyed a fond memory of the anxious freshmen that you once were—and appreciated how much you have grown.

When it came time to design your class rings as juniors, you surprised all of us by retrieving archival information and incorporating into the rings traditional design elements used in the long history of Rensselaer. Clearly, you value the Rensselaer legacy, and understand that, now, you are part of it.

Of course, we believe that we have had a hand in creating this strong bond to Rensselaer. You are the first class to arrive to a fully articulated and developed version of our Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students, CLASS, with the expectation that following the First-Year Experience, you would have a Class Dean—in your case, Louis Trzepacz—to guide you until graduation. Louis, please stand.

We have worked hard to network and engage you through CLASS programming. You may have participated in fireside chats in your residence halls with our faculty. You were the first class, whose members with 4.0 GPAs were inducted as Archimedeans, a new way for us to honor perfection. You were the first to be offered our Emerging Leaders 2.0 program—and indeed, leaders did emerge from it.

And you embraced the community and communiversity themes of CLASS with the spirit we have come to expect from you. Your time at Rensselaer was punctuated by a great deal of catastrophic weather around the globe, including two devastating hurricanes that struck the Northeast: Irene and Sandy. Many of you helped the victims of these hurricanes through RPI Relief, and by forming the Mighty Waters initiative to assist, generously, with the hard labor of clearing debris and repairing property damage in the wake of these storms.

We are very proud of you for giving so much of yourselves during your time at Rensselaer. We will send the Class of 2014 out into the world with a great sense of accomplishment for the part we played in your education, inside and outside the classroom.

First, however, you must celebrate your own accomplishments—and the great friendships you have formed with each other—many of which will continue throughout your lives, even as you disperse in different directions, towards many exciting destinations.

You have worked very hard over the last four years. You really do deserve to have some fun. And, if you have not begun already, this would be an excellent moment to start doing just that!

Thank you for coming, and please enjoy this lovely 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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