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Honors Convocation

“Celebrating the Best of Rensselaer”

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

EMPAC Concert Hall
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Good morning! Welcome to the 2013 Rensselaer Honors Convocation. We are here to formally recognize those of you—students and faculty alike—who represent the very best of Rensselaer.

The people we identify today as deserving of special praise encompass the entire range of Rensselaer faculty and students, including our freshmen who are recipients of the Rensselaer Medal, as the best mathematics and science students in their high schools.

We believe that excellence is excellence, and it deserves to be celebrated at every stage of a career. This event affirms the fact that we are a community of scholars. All of us are engaging in the pursuit of knowledge; and the challenge implicit in our motto, “Why not change the world?” applies to every member of the Rensselaer family.

Of course, Honors Convocation does not benefit merely those people being recognized, but the totality of Rensselaer. Awards are about inspiration. To excel comes from the Latin for “to surpass”—to go beyond the accomplishments of others, to transcend the status quo. In recognizing you—our honorands—we motivate others to achieve great things as well. By publicly honoring you, on a stage such as this, in the presence of family, friends, and peers—we collectively raise the bar higher.

Today, we joyously bestow upon you the title of “role model”—a person whose success, we hope, will inspire the rest of us to see things in new ways, and potentially to unlock novel approaches to solving difficult global challenges. Role models can be a transformative force for all of us.

This is something we intend to be as an Institute, as well. Under The Rensselaer Plan 2024, which continues the journey we began 14 years ago, we move from transforming Rensselaer, toward making Rensselaer even more transformational in the lives of our students, in our pedagogy, and in the global impact of our research.

As you know, we announced several exciting initiatives at the end of the last academic year, and over the summer, that will generate significant opportunities for us to address the great global challenges:

  • a new partnership with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai—to collaborate on radical innovations in health care; and to provide for medically-related educational opportunities for our students;
  • a data-driven partnership with IBM and The Fund for Lake George to understand and remediate the water quality of Lake George;
  • and the launch of The Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications, or The Rensselaer IDEA, to bring together our strengths in high-performance computing, cognitive computing, Web science, data science, and visualization and immersive technologies—in order to enable applications in every field of research.

New ventures such as these are precisely what we had in mind when we developed—with critical input from our community—The Rensselaer Plan 2024.

As we intensify the global impact of the work that takes place here, Rensselaer, in turn, is poised to offer our faculty, staff, and students new challenges to tackle, new opportunities for discovery, and new areas in which to excel. Our increasing stature as a university helps you to achieve your individual goals. Likewise, your achievements help Rensselaer to raise its stature. This is a virtuous cycle.

And so, this morning, on behalf of Rensselaer, I offer our award winners very heart-felt, and hearty, congratulations! I fully expect that there will be many more award ceremonies for all of you in the years ahead.


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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