Gaga and Negishi? Purdue President's speech takes grads from concert halls to Nobel prize

May 13, 2011

Purdue graduates were all smiles on Saturday (May 14), as they participated in commencement ceremonies. More than 6,600 graduates were taking part in five ceremonies from Friday (May 13) through Sunday (May 15) at the West Lafayette campus. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue President France A. Córdova on Friday (May 13) urged new graduates to use what they've learned during their "Purdue experience" in whatever they do in life.

Córdova addressed candidates during commencement ceremonies at the Elliott Hall of Music. More than 6,600 students were candidates to receive degrees in five weekend ceremonies at the West Lafayette campus.

"You've learned to set high goals and step out of your comfort zone to meet them," Córdova told the graduates. "You've learned that you have a point of view worth sharing, and that listening to others' views adds more value. And you've found that giving back to your community - and to each other - is the greatest reward."

The president said that, like the seniors, she also came to Purdue four years ago and recalled some of the exciting moments. They included a fall day in 2007 when the Dalai Lama spoke in Elliott Hall. On the same day across campus, 16 Purdue alumni astronauts reunited for the dedication of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, she said.

"I remember thinking, 'What a day to be a Boilermaker!'"

Córdova also noted that Purdue has seen record levels of research during the past four years, and, in fall 2009, received the largest amount of research awards in its history.

"Researchers at Purdue are impacting everything from world hunger to earthquake disasters to alternative energy systems," Córdova said. "These are the same experts who are teaching in our classrooms and devoting themselves to our students' success."

Purdue President France A. Córdova extends a hand to a graduate who has just received a degree on the stage of Elliott Hall of Music on Sunday (May 15). More than 6,600 students walked received degrees during commencement ceremonies at the West Lafayette campus. (Purdue University photo/Andy Hancock) 

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She said these experts are being recognized around the world.

"In the past several months alone, Dr. Ei-ichi Negishi won the Nobel Prize in chemistry," she said. "Professor Steve Wereley was on every major news station helping us understand the magnitude of the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico; Jere Jenkins consulted on the effects of nuclear radiation in the wake of the tsunami in Japan; and professor Thomas Talavage and his research team drew the nation's attention to an undiscovered category of cognitive impairment suffered by football players."

The president said students also have made a difference through their outreach efforts.

"When the levees were breeched by Katrina and earthquakes hit Haiti and Japan, you donated your time, supplies and even money to people you will never meet," she said.

Córdova said the students had witnessed great performances, both on the stage and in athletics.

"There were the two talented ladies we came to see three times: Lady Gaga and Lady Antebellum," she said. "Snoop Dogg shared his birthday with us. And thanks to Sigma Nu fraternity, 3,000 students joined Wiz Khalifa in saying farewell to seniors JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore.

"JaJuan and E'Twaun and the entire men's basketball team gave us terrific athletic performances, ending with the first unbeaten home schedule in over 40 years."

In addition, Córdova pointed out other athletic firsts in the past four years: the women's volleyball team reached the Elite Eight, the women's golf team won the NCAA championship, defensive end Ryan Kerrigan became the football program's first consensus All-American in 30 years and the Purdue All-American Marching Band led the way in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"The years you've shared with us have been exciting times," she said. "I hope you'll greet your new experiences with the same spirit and engagement that you brought to Purdue."   

Writer:  Greg McClure, 765-496-9711, 

Source:  France A. Córdova,

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