Purdue President to graduates: 'Be brilliant Boilermakers'

August 7, 2010

Purdue University President France A. Córdova made these comments during commencement ceremonies.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - What a special day this is! Today we are celebrating the accomplishments of nearly 1,400 students, including baccalaureate, master's, doctoral and professional students. On behalf of Purdue University -- and your parents, family and friends -- congratulations students! You did it!

Students, this is what you've worked for. You've overcome obstacles; you've met challenges; you've focused on learning; you've produced great scholarship and research. You've given back to your communities. It takes strong motivation and a lot of hard work to get you to this day. Yet you made it; you crossed the finish line. You should feel very proud of yourselves today.

This is a proud day for the Hall of Music, too. This year marks its 70th anniversary -- nearly 400,000 graduates have crossed this stage and have taken their Purdue education and the words of the "Hail Purdue" fight song to make an impact around the world.

Students, as you walk across this stage today to accept your diploma, you are ready to take on the next great challenge of your lives. And what remarkable lives you will live! We expect you to return often to Purdue and inspire our next generation of students with your experience, your wisdom and your achievements.

Purdue University, known and admired worldwide, owes its reputation to every graduate, every faculty member, and every staff member who has contributed to its traditions and achievements. Purdue is distinguished in large part because the people who graduated before you have made it so.

Eighty years ago, when the Colorado River needed to be tamed, Purdue was there in the name of Elwood Mead, chief engineer of the Hoover Dam. He would oversee one of the most massive engineering enterprises of all time. Elwood graduated from Purdue with a bachelor's degree in agriculture and a master's in civil engineering. Today, America's largest man-made reservoir -- Lake Mead -- bears his name.

When President Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth, Purdue was there in the footsteps of alumnus Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the lunar surface. Twenty-three astronauts launched their careers from this university. And Purdue alumnus Drew Feustel will be aboard the last Space Shuttle to fly, scheduled for next February.

Purdue graduates have created historic monuments and unforgettable moments. They have also created innovations that touch your lives every day.

R. Games Slayter graduated from Purdue with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and went to work with Owens-Illinois as a researcher. We know it today as Owens-Corning. A decade later, Games Slayter invented fiberglass. That gives you a whole new appreciation for those fiberglass lunch trays some of you sat on to slide down Slayter Hill, doesn't it?

When the beloved Walt Disney Co. was in financial trouble, Purdue was there in the genius of Peter Schneider. Peter was a Purdue theater graduate who resurrected Disney animation in the 1980s and '90s with films we all know today: "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."

On Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010, Drew Brees led the New Orleans Saints -- and Purdue -- into history when he won the Super Bowl, making him the third Boilermaker quarterback to win a Super Bowl and further cementing our reputation as the "Cradle of Quarterbacks."

Purdue alumnus Brian Lamb created C-Span, an entirely new concept in cable programming. Graduate Ruth Siems brought Stove Top Stuffing to the table. Alumnus Ward Cunningham wrote the first Wiki application.

Our graduates have led Fortune 500 companies. Today, Boilermakers run such companies as Walgreens, Goodrich Corp., Deere & Co. and McDonald's.

Purdue graduates have won Pulitzer and Nobel prizes and, most recently, two World Food prizes. They've served as mayors, governors, members of Congress, and Cabinet officers.

Purdue graduates and faculty are in today's headlines.

 Our first full-time dean of women, Dorothy C. Stratton, was the first female commissioned officer of the United States Coast Guard. Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama christened a national security cutter in honor of Dean Stratton. During the christening, Mrs. Obama said of Dorothy: "I am in awe of her life." We couldn't agree more.

Recently, we have witnessed the worst oil spill in our nation's history. Purdue has been analyzing the spill and commenting on it from the beginning.

Professor Steve Wereley, from the School of Mechanical Engineering, has been on every major cable and news network describing particle image velocimetry and fluid mechanics. Dr. Wereley has brought international attention to Purdue with his accurate rate assessment of the amount of oil gushing from the pipe one mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Our international presence is growing more rapidly every year. Last May, I attended "Purdue Day" at the China Agricultural University in Beijing accompanied by our 2007 World Food Prize Laureate, Phil Nelson, whose work on food storage has revolutionized the preservation of fruits and vegetables worldwide. Recently we named our food science building in his honor.

In July we welcomed our inaugural director of the Global Policy Research Institute, Dr. Arden Bement, Jr., formerly director of the National Science Foundation. Recently, he was honored with Japan's Order of the Rising Sun, which is presented to foreign recipients who have made outstanding contributions to building relationships with Japan.

Purdue is on a global stage with graduates and our faculty working and contributing on almost every continent.

Speaking of the world stage, much has occurred worldwide during your time at Purdue: Efforts to promote or sustain peace and democracy abroad have engaged our nation and others; we've experienced a worldwide economic crisis, and a global focus on hunger, environmental degradation, and disease; we've also witnessed the aftermath of devastating earthquakes.

Many of you have demonstrated personal leadership by dedicating yourselves to one or more of these dramatic events. At a time when resources were terribly scarce, the class of 2010 volunteered its time and money in record numbers.

When hundreds of thousands were left homeless in Haiti from an earthquake that caused more physical damage than ever seen in modern times, you collected funds to support the homeless. And a team of students led by Rafael Smith, an industrial design graduate from the College of Liberal Arts, created Uber Shelter, a dignified temporary home for people enduring a crisis.

Our students are innovative and caring. Purdue students reinvented the hot dog for Sara Lee, designed and built a multipurpose vehicle from wood to help people in poor regions of the world, and, this year, piloted and won the college division of the women's Air Race Classic. Young alumna Erin Slater became the CEO of College Mentors for Kids.

All of these examples show that Purdue is its people.

Graduates who apply their talents, efforts, research and heart to significant challenges ensure that Purdue's influence will continue to be felt around the world.

You join their ranks today. We expect every one of you to contribute in some special way. We know you will -- because you chose Purdue and you earned a Purdue degree. With that degree you can reach the stars.

Congratulations, graduates! Be brilliant Boilermakers.

Hail Purdue!