Purdue President: 'Graduates, the spotlight shines on you now'

May 15, 2010

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

Ladies and gentlemen, the hall we sit in today was dedicated 70 years ago this month. On this historic stage, more than 385,000 graduates have received a Purdue diploma. This weekend, six thousand more from the Class of 2010 will join them.

Graduates, you may think you have little in common with the students of 1940. But what you and every class of Purdue graduates share is the tireless support of parents, relatives, teachers and friends -- those who helped you reach this day. Please take a moment right now to show them how much you appreciate them!

For many of you, the Purdue experience began on this stage just a few short years ago. When you arrived for Boiler Gold Rush, Nintendo's Wii and MTV's "The Hills" were all the rage. Pluto was still a planet, but not for long. And none of us knew what an "app" was … or a Snuggie.

In the years that followed, you texted and tweeted, Skyped and Scribd, friended and unfriended. You joined the Paint Crew. You cheered our Boilermakers to men's and women's Big Ten tournament championships … and trips for these teams to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight.

You sledded down Slayter Hill, sipped Pappy's milkshakes, and constructed and raced in every kind of vehicle -- from the gas Grand Prix to the nation's first Electric Vehicle Grand Prix to the international Shell Eco-Marathon Americas, where Purdue took first place in the solar-power category.

On this stage, you heard from thinkers and doers including Thomas Friedman, Jane Goodall, and our own professor Bit Minh Nguyen, author of "Stealing Buddha's Dinner." You rocked with Kelly Clarkson, Wilco, and native Hoosier John Mellencamp. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and the "Queen of YouTube" Lady Gaga appeared on this stage -- though not together.

Much occurred on the world stage during your time at Purdue as well: efforts to promote or sustain peace and democracy abroad, a historic presidential election, a worldwide economic crisis, vigorous debates on energy production and health care, the aftermath of tsunamis and earthquakes, and global focus on hunger and climate change.

Within this framework of world events and spurred by your own desire to become leaders and make a difference, you met your own challenges here. You completed rigorous classes to prepare you well for your careers, and you found time to intern and volunteer in record numbers.

Graduate students, you did all that -- and you taught classes and broke new ground in research, defining new frontiers in discovery.

All of you were so busy, you may have wondered if this day would ever come.

Well, here it is. In a few moments, you'll march up one side of this stage as students and stride down the other as scholars. Now the question becomes, what will you do next?

Our expectations are high. Purdue graduates have led Fortune 500 companies and launched cable TV networks. They've won Pulitzer, Nobel and World Food prizes. They've served as mayors, governors, members of Congress and Cabinet officers.

Some have made it big on the Hollywood stage. Boilermaker Callie Khouri took home the 1992 Academy Award for Best Screenplay for "Thelma & Louise," which debuted Brad Pitt.

Peter Schneider, another Purdue theatre graduate, resurrected Disney animation in the 1980s and '90s, creating films we all remember -- "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."  Many of you saw Peter on campus last month for a screening of his new documentary, "Waking Sleeping Beauty."

On the sports stage, there's Boilermaker Drew Brees, who led the New Orleans Saints to their first Super Bowl victory in February. With his outstanding performance, Purdue became the only university to produce three quarterbacks who have started, won, and been named Most Valuable Player of a Super Bowl -- further cementing our reputation as the "cradle of quarterbacks."

And then there's the stage that knows no bounds -- outer space. Two Boilermakers launched themselves from the Elliot Hall of Music, ultimately, onto the surface of the moon. They're joined by many other astronauts and space engineers and scientists who hail Purdue as their alma mater. One will be aboard the last Space Shuttle to fly, scheduled for next November. When I told that recently to an acquaintance, he said, "Don't all shuttles have Boilermakers on them?"

Perhaps someone from the Class of 2010 will venture from this stage even farther into the frontiers of space -- exploring Mars or destinations still unknown.

From astronauts to athletes, engineers to educators, Purdue alumni have made their presence felt around this world -- and high above it.

Graduates, the spotlight shines on you now.

We expect all of you to lead. You will be ready because you have completed a Purdue education.

You've learned how to work hard and still have a good time. You've learned to set your goals high and that you can accomplish much more working in teams. You've felt the power of giving back to your community. And you've learned that respect is the greatest attribute that you can accord to others and can expect for yourself.

Bravo, Class of 2010. We applaud your success.

Go Boilers! Hail Purdue!