May 26, 2011 was a hot and sunny day as families and friends converged on campus to celebrate the Class of 2011 at Stevens Institute of Technology’s 139th Undergraduate Commencement. The DeBaun Athletic Field was filled to capacity with well-wishers and the approximately 450 graduates.
After opening remarks from Faculty Marshal Linda Vollkommer, the Star Spangled Banner led by graduating senior Victoria O’Connor, and invocation by Shaykh Al-Tayyab, Dr. George P. Korfiatis, Provost and Interim President of Stevens, took the stage. He welcomed everyone and then asked the crowd to “give a thunderous applause for the Class of 2011!”
Dr. Korfiatis then introduced Steven Shulman, vice chairman of the Stevens Board of Trustees, who helped confer the first degree – an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree – to Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan. She is the Vice Chancellor of UKM, the National University of Malaysia, and is credited with developing the quality assurance system of higher education in Malaysia.
“I am honored to receive this degree as Stevens is a very distinguished university. UKM is very proud to be associated with you,” she stated. “I accept this honor on behalf of my colleagues; they deserve this recognition as well.”
Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan spoke to the graduating class and encouraged them to extend what they’ve learned at Stevens globally. She encouraged sustainability, volunteerism, innovation and solidarity. She wrapped up her words to the Class of 2011 with a simple, yet powerful message: “Today, dream and do things differently.”
Dr. Michael Bruno, dean of the School of Engineering and Science, took the stage next to introduce the next honorary degree recipient, Dr. Korfiatis. Dean Bruno thanked Dr. Korfiatis for “steering the ship that is Stevens” for the last year during his tenure as Interim President.
After Shulman conferred the honorary Doctor of Engineering degree to Dr. Korfiatis, he addressed the students briefly about their next step.
“I get up every morning and look forward to going to work,” Dr. Korfiatis stated. “You should – and can – have that too. Make sure you love what you do.”
He then introduced the final honorary degree recipient of the ceremony, Carlos Alomar, who received a Bachelor of Arts. Alomar, a legendary guitarist and internationally known musician, began his speech by saying: “I want to talk about something I have, that I hope you have. Passion! Do you guys have passion?” The question was answered by an eruption of cheering from the Class of 2011.
Alomar discussed his journey and dedicated his honorary degree to the memory of his parents, who supported him and his passion throughout. He told the crowd that he dedicated it also to all the parents present at the ceremony, who have worked hard and supported their children on their personal journeys.
“Innovation is for leaders, not followers,” he concluded. “Don’t undervalue yourselves, don’t get sleepy. Go out there and forge your own path! But first, enjoy your summer…”
That last statement provided the perfect transition to a very special treat for all in attendance, as Alomar pulled out his guitar. He performed his interpretation of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” to loud cheers from the crowd.
After the performance, Dr. Korfiatis took the stage again and asked the Class of 2011 to stand and to thank all the people who have helped them on their journey, including their families, friends and faculty. Then he introduced Steven N. Schwartz, this year’s Valedictorian, who finished his college career with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, and a 3.985 GPA.
“I am humbled and honored to stand here in front of you today,” said Schwartz.
He took a look back at the things the Class of 2011 has experience together during their time at Stevens, and spoke of his own personal journey. “Graduation marks the day when our paths now go in different directions,” he told his fellow graduates.
Schwartz closed his speech by thanking all of the people who have inspired him, helped him and supported him along the way. He concluded: “Congratulations, Class of 2011, on all our outstanding accomplishments!”
More cheers rose from the crowd, as the Deans of each school made their way to the stage to begin the conferment of degrees.
A couple hours later, the sun was still shining as the time came to celebrate the Stevens Institute of Technology Graduate Commencement. Almost 1300 students received Master’s, MBA and Ph.D. degrees this year.
Faculty Marshal Linda Vollkommer opened this ceremony as well, and the Star Spangled Banner was led by Michael Paulauski, Class of 2014. The invocation was given by M.G. Prasad. Dr. Korfiatis welcomed everyone and recognized the Class of 2011 before introducing Sandeep Mathrani, the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree.
Mathrani began his remarks by stating: “I owe my foundations in Civil Engineering to Stevens. I am honored to be here to speak to you – and to obtain my FOURTH degree from Stevens.”
A real estate industry veteran, Mathrani now serves as the CEO of General Growth Properties (GGP). He told the crowd he got the real estate bug after he earned his third Stevens degree.
“It is important to find your own path,” he said. “My path was initially forged by my spirit of youthful independence.”
He shared the story of his personal journey with the graduates and encouraged them to look at their interests and discover what truly excites them as they move forward in their careers. “I’m sharing my story with you today because it really is the proverbial American dream.”
Mathrani wrapped up his speech, after which the program continued with the conferment of the graduate degrees, with a poignant message to the Class of 2011.
“Hard-work, perseverance and passion are the drivers in life. Enjoy what you do and do it well,” he asserted. “There is no limit to what you can accomplish. After all, what do you have to lose?”