Last month’s inauguration of Dr. Nariman Farvardin as the new President of Stevens was a momentous occasion for the entire university community, but none more so than for computer engineering major Richard Sanchez. In the course of two weeks, he wrote, rewrote, rehearsed, and delivered an impressive speech to Stevens students, alum, faculty and staff, plus distinguished guests such as New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Dr. Jeong Kim, Executive Vice President of Alcatel-Lucent and President of Bell Labs.
When Sanchez saw a notice in the Student Life Newsletter seeking an inauguration student speaker, he felt like he was up to the task – to give an inspiring speech on behalf of the student body.
“Ever since I came to Stevens, I had a passion for this school,” Sanchez said. “Having this opportunity, I felt confident in myself and my experiences to represent Stevens to the fullest for such a historic moment.”
Sanchez is a co-op student in his fifth year at Stevens. He is heavily involved with multiple organizations on campus including Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Gear & Triangle, Order of Omega, Chi Alpha Epsilon, and the Orientation Program, which gives him a uniquely complete perspective on what it means to be a member of the Stevens community.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to give back and say everything I felt necessary as a student of this great institution,” he said.
Sanchez was nominated for the position after presenting his speech to a group of administrators in the Student Life department. He had only two weeks to prepare. In that time, he participated in five planning sessions in which a team of faculty and staff helped him analyze and revise the content. In all, there were about four versions of the speech before it was perfected to deliver the message he wanted to get across.
“I want our new President to embrace the community and empower us with tools and resources so that we can continue to be good engineers and business leaders,” Sanchez said. “At the same time, I want him to inspire the community, as he is now at the forefront of innovation and excellence.”
Once the content of the speech was complete, Sanchez practiced his delivery with the help of Robert Gonzales, Managing Director of DeBaun Center for Performing Arts. Gonzalez showed Sanchez how to emphasize the most impactful words and sentences.
“I not only wanted it to be a monumental moment for the President, but for the students as well,” Sanchez said.
Although Sanchez has a natural ability to address large crowds, at first it did not quite hit him how big this moment was going to be. When it did, Gonzales shared tips with Sanchez to conquer his nerves, such as rehearsing in front of the mirror, recording his speech on his iPad, and delivering the speech in front of as many people as he could. He did just that, rehearsing in front of his fraternity brothers every day leading up to the inauguration.
"I was even rehearsing the speech in the library and people would come up to ask me why I was talking to myself,” he said. “When I told them about the speech, they all said I was the right fit to deliver the speech, which was truly heartwarming.”
When it came down to the day of the inauguration, Sanchez listened to LMFAO songs on his sound system.
“I woke up and tried not to think about it at all. All I wanted to do was relax and feel good.”
As the procession of speakers, honorary guests, faculty and staff walked into Canavan, the applause was overwhelming.
"When I walked into the room, I saw all of my peers cheering for me and it was a great way to start the occasion,” Sanchez said. “By the time I reached the podium, I looked out to the crowd and thought to myself, ‘I’ve got this – they selected you for a reason and you can do this.’”
Sanchez’s speech delivered a clear call to action to President Farvardin – to embrace the traditions and values of Stevens, to empower the community to become science and business leaders, and to inspire commitment to the continued success of the university. He spoke each word with intent, purpose and eloquence. His smile put the crowd at ease and showed how genuine and earnest he was – on behalf of the entire student body – about the powerful words he was saying.
Sanchez credits his good performance to the support of his fellow students, his fraternity brothers, the speech committee, and even his girlfriend.
“Everyone played a pivotal role in the speech,” he said. “This opportunity is by far the most significant achievement I have accomplished at Stevens yet. It’s because of them that I stand here as the person I am today.”