President tells graduates they're joining a special group: Purdue alumni

August 7, 2010

President France A. Córdova hands out graduate degrees during the 211th commencement at Purdue University on Saturday (Aug. 7, 2010). Nearly 1,400 students received their degrees during the ceremony. (Purdue University/Andrew Hancock)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University President France A. Córdova on Saturday (Aug. 7) welcomed nearly 1,400 graduates into an exclusive club that includes men and women who have made their names known worldwide and those who are leaders on all levels of society. They are Purdue alumni.

Córdova addressed the newest graduates during a summer commencement ceremony in Elliott Hall of Music, imploring them to carry their alma mater's name proudly as they head into this next chapter of their lives.

"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," she said. "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."

Graduates make their way to the Elliott Hall of Music for the 211th commencement at Purdue University on Saturday (Aug. 7, 2010). (Purdue University/Andrew Hancock)

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Córdova illustrated Purdue's impact culturally, economically and historically with a look back at some of the alumni who have left lasting imprints on U.S. society and the world.

She noted Elwood Mead, chief engineer of the Hoover Dam and the man for whom the nation's largest man-made reservoir -- Lake Mead -- is named. She spoke of Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, and Drew Feustel, who is scheduled to again enter orbit in February.

She spoke of R. Games Slayter, the inventor of fiberglass, and of Peter Schneider, a theater graduate who resurrected Disney animation in the 1980s and '90s with hit films "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."

Brian Lamb created C-Span, a new concept in television programming. Ruth Siems brought Stove Top Stuffing to the table, and Ward Cunningham wrote the first Wiki application, Córdova said.

And, of course, there is Drew Brees, following the great tradition of Purdue quarterbacks. He was the third Boilermaker to win a Super Bowl, further cementing the university as the "Cradle of Quarterbacks."

President France A. Córdova addresses the graduates during the summer commencement ceremony on Saturday (Aug. 7, 2010). (Purdue University/Andrew Hancock)

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Purdue's legacy, Córdova said, extends far beyond the famous. Alumni are leaders across many spectrums of corporate America, academia and government.

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

"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.

Córdova also reflected on the mark the current graduates have made during their time at Purdue as the world experienced an economic crisis, hunger in parts of the world, environmental issues and 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.

"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."

Writer:  Jim Bush, 765-494-2077,

Source:  France A. Córdova,

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Full text of President France A. Córdova's speech

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