December 15, 2019

Purdue commencement signals start of professional lives for newest graduates

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue alumna, distinguished professor and researcher Rita Colwell keynoted two commencement ceremonies Sunday (Dec. 15) at Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus.

The winter commencement ceremonies took place in Purdue’s Elliott Hall of Music. Students in Agriculture, Education, Engineering and Liberal Arts graduated during a morning ceremony. Those in Health and Human Sciences, Management, Pharmacy, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, Science and Veterinary Medicine received their degrees during an afternoon ceremony. A photo gallery is available here.

Rita Colwell Rita Colwell, a Purdue alumna and distinguished professor at the University of Maryland, addresses students during winter commencement Sunday (Dec. 15). (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons) Download image

Purdue President Mitch Daniels spoke at both ceremonies. Both events featured a student responder.

Colwell currently is a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and president of CosmosID Inc. Her interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water and health. She has authored or co-authored 19 books and more than 800 scientific publications.

Colwell served as 11th director of the National Science Foundation and co-chair of the Committee on Science, National Science and Technology Council. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Canada, Royal Irish Academy, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Philosophical Society.

She has received 63 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education and is the recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star from Japan, the National Medal of Science, the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize and the 2018 Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize of Singapore. 

She received her bachelor’s degree in bacteriology and her master’s degree in genetics from Purdue. She also received a doctorate in oceanography from the University of Washington.

The winter 2019 graduating class includes approximately 1,622 undergraduate degree recipients, 683 master’s degrees and 375 doctoral degrees, as well as one graduate each for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and the Doctor of Nurse Practice degree.

Samantha Klemme, a student in the College of Agriculture from Otterbein, Indiana, was the student responder in the morning session. Cole Brock, a student in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute from Brownstown, Indiana, provided the student response in the afternoon ceremony.


Writer: Matthew Oates 765-496-2571,, @mo_oates

Sources: Christine Pass, 765-494-6163,


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