Sands to graduates: Boilermakers have a history of going 'one brick higher'

December 16, 2012  

Winter graduation

Graduates were all smiles as they took part in Purdue University commencement ceremonies Sunday (Dec. 16) in Elliott Hall of Music on campus. About 2,750 students were candidates for degrees. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue acting President Timothy Sands paired Boilermaker spirit with the wisdom of accomplished alumni to challenge the university's newest graduates to make a difference.

Sands spoke to graduates during winter commencement ceremonies Sunday (Dec. 16) in Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music. More than 2,750 students were candidates for degrees.

Sands said the university has a long history - starting from its founding - of rising to the occasion and producing alumni who do the same.

In 1894, he noted, a fire destroyed an early campus landmark. Then-President James Smart declared that Heavilon Hall would be rebuilt - "One brick higher."

"That phrase continues to define the Boilermaker spirit," Sands said. "Purdue Boilermakers work hard to make things better in the world. They accomplish remarkable feats, sometimes against the odds, and often without precedent."

Sands spoke of a long line of Boilermaker accomplishments that had profound world impact: The landing of the Eagle on the moon, an airbus on the Hudson River and a space rover on Mars. He noted the inventors of Fiberglass and Stovetop Stuffing are Purdue graduates, as are the writers of an Academy Award-winning screenplay, best-selling novels and of software called a "Wiki."

Nobel and World Food prize winners, Super Bowl champions and, of course, winners of the Old Oaken Bucket, have come from Purdue.

He noted that Boilermakers have created new drugs for fighting cancer and discovered a new virus that may one day lead to a treatment for tuberculosis, and have become CEOs of international companies, mayors of towns and governors of states across our nation.

"The accomplishments of our alumni, faculty and staff are as varied as the students sitting in this great hall," Sands said. "But as different as they are, these great deeds have something in common: They all relied on the leadership of a Purdue Boilermaker."

The late Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, was such an example, Sands said.

"Neil tended to understate his accomplishments. He was a humble man, which made him a great leader," Sands said. "When he returned from his historic moonwalk, Neil talked about helping the needy and feeding millions of hungry people around the world. He said, 'It's going to take an international approach far beyond any cooperative effort ever seen in history. ' "

Sands said Armstrong had the vision of a great leader because he saw a cause larger than himself and that leadership is about learning how to pull people or ideas together to focus on a clear objective.

"People become leaders because they want to make something better, just as we once built a building 'one brick higher,'" he said.

Sands wished the graduates "a safe flight and happy landing," as they launch into the next phase of their journeys.

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077,

Source: Timothy Sands,

Link to Acting President Timothy Sands' full speech

Photo gallery of the December 2012 commencement ceremonies

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