EMILY DECICCO: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 13th annual January Recognition Ceremony. I'm Emily Decicco and I'm the Senior Class Commencement Chair. The academic procession is about to begin. Please take your seats and kindly clear all aisles. Also, please take a moment to be sure the ringers on your cell phones are turned off.
The event is being live streamed for the web, so please remain in your seats during the ceremony so as to not block the cameras by the video staff and professional photographers. The video can be viewed at CornellCast next week. There will be opportunities to take photos with your students after the ceremony. Please take a moment to locate the closest exit to you. In case of an emergency, listen carefully to the PA system. Thank you.
At this time, it is my pleasure to introduce from each college who will be announcing the degree candidates' names today. From the Graduate School, Associate Dean Jan Allen.
From the school of Industrial and Labor Relations, Associate Dean Robert Smith.
From the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Architecture Department Chair Mark Cruvellier.
From the School of Hotel Administration, Associate Dean Stephen Carvell.
From the College of Human Ecology, Associate Dean Margaret Frey.
From the College of Engineering, Associate Dean Leslie Trotter.
From the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Associate Dean Donald Viands.
And from the College of Arts and Sciences, Associate Dean Patricia Wasyliw.
Thank you for coming, and please join us at the reception afterwards.
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WALCOTT: Good morning. Please be seated. Families, friends, colleagues, and students, we've gathered here today to honor our students who are completing their academic achievements at Cornell University. At this time, it's my great pleasure to introduce to you the president of Cornell University, Elizabeth Garrett.
ELIZABETH GARRET: Good morning. And thank you, Professor Walcott. Good morning. On behalf of Cornell University and the deans, faculty, and staff of its schools and colleges, I am pleased to welcome you to this morning to today's ceremony and to congratulate the students who will be earning their Cornell degrees in January 2016. Please help me in recognizing our terrific graduates.
I especially want to welcome the families and guests of the January graduates and to thank you for making the trip to Ithaca for this ceremony. You have supported these students in so many ways over the years, guiding and encouraging them, providing financial support, listening as they work out their plans for their future. Graduates, please join me in a round of applause for your family members and friends.
There are two other groups that I'd like to recognize. First, join me in thanking the faculty members who have been your teachers and mentors and whose impact on your thoughts and your careers will continue in the future. And recognize Cornell staff members who volunteer their time to make this reception possible. Thank you, Cornell staff, for giving your time on a weekend during this busy holiday season in addition to everything else you do for Cornell. Thank you, faculty and staff.
So I know this is a very special day for all of you. But it's special for me as well. Having served Cornell as president only since last July, I am honored to address this assembly, my first graduating class for the university. And today we salute 964 candidates for January degrees. About 500 of those will receive bachelor's degrees and about 435 are earning a master's degree. We have 25 candidates for doctoral degrees, one DBM, and 24 PhDs. And I am proud to say that seven of these degree candidates are completing their degrees while employed here at Cornell.
Our students come from all over the world, helping classmates get to know a variety of cultures and viewpoints and making a Cornell education truly global. In this graduating class, international students are about 15% of our bachelor's candidates and just over half of the candidates for graduate and professional degrees. Graduates, you are as many different points in your lives. While most of you will receive a bachelor's degree today, others will be celebrating the completion of a graduate or professional degree, perhaps having returned to the academy after a period of work and life experience.
But whatever milestone you are celebrating, I am confident that you have gained here much more than a credential and that you have the tools to build on your Cornell education, to nourish what you have already launched here-- a rich intellectual life that will serve you well no matter what the future will bring.
Now what do I mean by an intellectual life? I don't use that phrase in the exclusionary sense, as though intellect is all that matters. I wish for all of you a life full of varied experience, of love and friendship, meaningful work and deep commitment to the well being of others. I mean intellectual life as described by the late Cornell Professor Carl Becker, the teacher and historian for whom the Becker House Residence on West Campus is named.
For Becker, intellectual life is about questions more than answers. It is, he said, a continuous adventure of the mind in which something is being discovered, possessing whatever meaning the adventurer can find in it. The individualism so prominent in Becker's definition is not selfish or self-absorbed, insisting on its own certainties. Rather, Becker's mental explorer is constantly asking questions, recognizing the limits of individual knowledge, and testing new ideas. Listening, as if to a tuning fork, for how they may challenge or harmonize with the listener's values and how they may expand the listener's mind.
The adventure is not solely for the benefit of the explorer herself, but opens new vistas for her colleagues and society. Here in academia, where so much of what we do is conducting research to find answers or studying to master facts, concepts, and skills, we also fully appreciate how much we do not know. That is, how extensive our future adventures must be to make more progress on our search for answers and for truth. The true scholar deeply appreciates what a valuable thing acknowledging and the fact and scope of our ignorance is.
Stuart Firestein, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, has written a book provocatively titled Ignorance-- How it Drives Science. By ignorance he does not mean willful stupidity marked by an indifference to facts or logic. Rather, ignorance in this sense, he says, is not an individual lack of information, but a communal gap in knowledge. It is a case where data don't exist, or more commonly where existing data don't make sense, don't add up to a coherent explanation.
This is the kind of ignorance that exhilarates the scholar, who seeks new knowledge, knows that the many facts of science are subject to challenge and revision and relishes the kinds of answers that will lead to more and deeper questions. The day to day work of science, Firestein says, is like piecing together a puzzle-- is not like piecing together a puzzle. It's more like searching for a black cat in a dark room not knowing whether the cat is actually in there or not.
Social scientist Michael Smithson of Australian National University offers a different analogy. The larger the island of knowledge grows, the longer the shoreline where knowledge meets ignorance extends. The more we know, the more we can ask. And it is not only science, including physical, life, and social sciences, that is driven by the desire to understand our collective ignorance and reduce its scope. The arts and humanities also seek to provide ways to better understand human life and to offer us a richer vocabulary to develop our own insights and knowledge.
John Keats described the value of what he called negative capability, defining it as being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Art is creating not by figuring out definite answers but by exploring ambiguities, by pushing the boundaries of questions. Firestein refines Keats' language when he notes, scientists do reach after fact and reason. But it is when they are most uncertain that the reaching is the most imaginative.
That imaginative reaching, the questioning and exploring of ambiguity, are enterprises that require courage. The courage to admit what we don't know and the courage to risk something that might end in failure. Sometimes there just isn't the cat in the black, dark room. Sometimes we have to find another room or search for something other than the cat.
But here, in this community of scholars, you have developed that kind of courage and resilience. You have learned to think critically and asked perceptive questions. And all these qualities will be valuable in the years ahead, years that will bring challenges you cannot anticipate now and will require a flexibility of thought, a willingness to take risks, and the creativity nurtured by the liberal arts.
At this key moment in your lives, as we celebrate with unqualified enthusiasm all that you have accomplished, let's not forget to celebrate ignorance as well as knowledge, uncertainty as well as certainty, questions as well as answers. These are the areas that nourish intellectual life, that make it exciting, that enrich our adventures of the mind day after day.
You have my very warmest congratulations on all your achievements here at Cornell and my very best wishes for a continuous adventure of the mind and of the heart. Congratulation, graduates.
And now I am very pleased to introduce the president of the senior class, Jonathan Lowry.
JONATHAN LOWRY: Thank you, President Garrett. Deans, faculty, trustees, and staff that make this university what it is. And thank you get to my fellow classmates and students and your families for making our time here so memorable.
Congratulations. We made it.
There once was a gifted girl just like us. Her name was Cornelia. She seemed to know just about everything the world had to offer. Biology, Egyptology, phonology. You name it. But one thing she didn't know was what to do with what she knew.
She went through all of the books in Olin and Uris and Mann searching for the answer. Nothing. None of her professors, with their multiple PhDs and MDs and JDs could tell her. She must find it for herself, they said.
So one day, while exploring Ithaca, she happened upon two identical doors. Adventurous by nature, she took a peak. Entering the first Cornelia, saw a great hall where on a long, candle lit banquet table lay bowls of steaming fragrant soups, succulent roasts, and a glorious array of food that made her mouth water.
Diners filled every single chair. But the table was one of rage and resentment. The diners all held giant spoons. But rather than eating, the hissed and they spat at one another. Looking closer, she saw that all the spoons had long handles, longer than the diners' arms. Too long, in fact, for them to angle them just right to feed themselves.
She shuddered and fled. And she was about to leave a good when she heard a tinkle of laughter slip out of the other door. So curious as always, she crept over to it and peered in. Inside there was an identical long candle lit banquet table covered with a similar array of delicious foods, drinks, and sweets. But here the sounds of laughter, chatter, and song filled the hall. These diners too had long spoons. But rather than trying to feed themselves, they reached across the table with the spoons to feed one another.
Our education, these tools we've received, these long spoons we hold in our hands, can separate us from others, or they can bring us together. As we go our separate ways, where we go isn't important. Whether we find frustration or friendship in or new life doesn't depend on the place. It doesn't depend on where we sit at the table relative to others. At the head or in the little corner.
It's what we do when we are at the table. It's how we treat those beside us, our friends and our family, our neighbors, and those who are strangers. Rich or poor, black or white, and every class and shade in between. We should take to heart what Cornelia learned that day. That our university, which has fed us knowledge and stirred our ambition, can only teach us so much. That some things you can't learn from books or professors, but must learn for yourself. That the satisfaction of our lives doesn't depend on the spoons we wield or Ivy League degrees or ambition or youth, but how we use them.
Drawing from the words given to a person I most admire, I hope we can be remembered as a class of kind, decent men and women who, when they say wrong, tried to stop it, when they saw suffering, tried to heal it, when they say brokenness, try to mend it. I know our class is one dedicated to stopping wrong and making right. I've seen it in the eyes of those of you I've worked beside to fight hunger in our community. I've felt it in the goodwill expressed by organizations like Minds Matter and Random Acts of Kindness that believe in when you don't believe in yourself and give candy and high fives before exams.
I've read it in The Daily Sun. Articles like those about Anabel's Grocery Store, which will soon provide healthy, affordable, and accessible food to all students who seek it out. In the humble actions by our class that can't be seen and can't be heard or read tread silently but just as surely beside us. Wherever we may go, I trust we will be a force for one another, to take what we have done and learned on this campus to the outside world so that we may enrich those around us as opposed to just ourselves.
To be anything less would be untrue to our name. To do anything less would be unfaithful to our education. There is a saying, if you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I hope we can go far together. Thank you, class of 2016. It's been an honor serving you these four years.
WALCOTT: Thank you, Jonathan. We will now recognize the January degree candidates individually. I will call each dean forward and ask the candidates to rise one row at a time and approach the platform. At this time, the reader for the first college will approach the microphone near the stairs. And will the Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth please step forward. And the PhD candidates from the graduate school approach the platform.
The PhD candidates will each be officially hooded by Dean Knuth, signifying their success in completing a doctoral degree graduate program.
SPEAKER 1: [READING NAMES]
WALCOTT: Will the master's candidates from the graduate school please approach the platform.
SPEAKER 1: [READING NAMES]
WALCOTT: Thank you, Senior Vice Provost and Dean Knuth. Will the Dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Kevin Hallock, please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
SPEAKER 2: [READING NAMES]
WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Hallock. Will the dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Kent Kleinman please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
SPEAKER 3: [READING NAMES]
WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Kleinman. Will the dean of the School of Hotel Administration, Michael Johnson, please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
SPEAKER 4: [READING NAMES]
WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Johnson. Will the dean of the College of Human Ecology, Alan Mathios, please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
SPEAKER 5: [READING NAMES]
WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Mathios. Will the dean of the College of Engineering, Lance Collins, please step forward and the candidates approach the platform?
SPEAKER 6: We begin with master of engineering candidates.
And now we have bachelor's candidates.
WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Collins. Will the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Kathryn Boor, please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
SPEAKER 7: [READING NAMES]
WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Boor. Will the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Gretchen Ritter, please step forward and the candidates approach the platform.
SPEAKER 8: [READING NAMES]
WALCOTT: Thank you, Dean Ritter. Congratulations to all of you on your achievements. Will the assembly please stand for the singing of the Cornell University Alma Mater.
[SINGING "FAR ABOVE CAYUGA'S WATERS"]
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January 2016 graduates and their families and friends gather in Barton Hall Dec. 19, 2015 for a recognition event with remarks by Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett.