This spring, 1,672 students will receive degrees from Rensselaer on Saturday, May 30, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the East Campus Athletic Village (ECAV) stadium. They represent the next generation of leaders, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, patent holders, game designers, architects, and innovators, in fields ranging from engineering to architecture, fine arts to science, game design to information technology, and business to the United States Armed Forces.
During the 209th Commencement Ceremony, Rensselaer will award a total of 1,838 degrees. They include: 164 doctoral degrees, 544 master’s degrees, and 1,130 bachelor’s degrees. Some graduates have earned more than one degree.
A Global Community
In 2015, graduating students come from more than 44 states, in addition to New York. The Class of 2015 contains graduates from 29 other nations, including Bangladesh, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Romani, and Turkey.
The Commencement Speaker Is…
Michelle Howard will deliver the 2015 Commencement address. Admiral Howard is the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations. On July 1, 2014, she made U.S. Navy history as the first female promoted to four-star Admiral and the first African-American woman to attain a four-star rank in the Department of Defense. In 1999 she took command of USS Rushmore, becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. She supported Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Arabian Gulf, Operation Joint Endeavor in the Adriatic, and operations with navies of seven African nations. As Amphibious Squadron Seven Commander, she led tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf. She commanded Expeditionary Strike Group Two and Task Force 151, a multinational counter-piracy effort in the U.S. Central Command Theater.
Taking the Podium
Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson also will address members of the Class of 2015. The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut. Described by Time magazine as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science,” President Jackson, a theoretical physicist, has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. Since 1999, President Jackson has led an extraordinary transformation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute under an ambitious strategic effort known as The Rensselaer Plan. The Rensselaer Plan now has been refreshed, as the university moves toward the bicentennial of its founding in 2024. The Rensselaer Plan 2024 is intended to make Rensselaer transformative in the global impact of its research, in the lives of its students, and its pedagogy.
Class President Adam Koehr, a mechanical engineering major, also will address the graduates. The Hillsborough, N.J., native is a member of the Rensselaer Society of Engineers. Following graduation, Koehr plans to pursue a career with Tata Communication in Matawan, N.J.
Honorary Degree Recipients
Admiral Howard will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree at the ceremony. She will join filmmaker, cultural critic, and scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; cybersecurity policy expert Craig Mundie; and private equity pioneer and patriotic philanthropist David Rubenstein. All four honorands, who have demonstrated resilience in their careers, will participate in the graduation ceremonies and also receive honorary degrees.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Gates is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, and cultural critic; he has authored 17 books and created 14 documentary films. His PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, earned an Emmy Award. He serves as editor-in-chief of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine. The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, a collection of his writings, was published in 2012. He was awarded a “genius grant” by the MacArthur Foundation, and became the first African-American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on a wide array of boards.
Craig Mundie is President of Mundie & Associates, which counsels CEOs on technology strategy. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering. In December 2014, Mundie retired from Microsoft where he was chief research and strategy officer since 2007 and the principal technology-policy executive since 1998. Mundie joined Microsoft in 1992 after departing as CEO from Alliant Computer Systems, which he co-founded in 1982 and took public in 1987. Previously he worked at Data General Corporation and received his BSEE and MSICS degrees from Georgia Tech. Mundie serves on the boards of the ISB and Raintree Oncology Corporation and as adviser to Aurasense Therapeutics, Madrona Venture Group, CFR, CSIS, and the Cleveland Clinic. Mundie served Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama on the NSTAC. President Obama appointed him in 2009 to the PCAST, on which he still serves.
David Rubenstein is a co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, founded in 1987. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Mr. Rubenstein is chairman of the Boards of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and of Duke University, a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, co-chairman of the Brookings Institution, vice-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, and president of the Economic Club of Washington. Rubenstein is on the Board of Directors of the University of Chicago. He is a member of the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors and the Advisory Board of the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University (Chairman).
This year, seven Rensselaer employees are graduating. In addition, 16 children of Rensselaer employees also are graduating.
All in the Family
The Rensselaer degree is well-known throughout the world as a symbol of technological excellence and achievement. Rensselaer alumni and alumnae are leaders. They are collaborative, able, and smart. This year, 130 members of the Class of 2015 are Rensselaer “legacies,” students with relatives who attended the university.
This year, more than 10,000 graduates and visitors are expected to attend the ceremony. In 2009, the Institute officially unveiled ECAV. The facility represents the most extensive athletic construction project in Rensselaer history, offering athletic and recreation facilities that have changed the student experience dramatically. The $92 million complex is the latest in a decade-long physical transformation of Rensselaer.
Beginning in 1950, Commencements were held in the Houston Field House. In 1999, due to the increasing number of graduates, the ceremony was held at the Pepsi Arena (now the Times Union Center) in downtown Albany, where it was held for the next few years. In 2002, Rensselaer planned to hold Commencement on Harkness Field; however, a late May snowfall of 2.2 inches forced the planned outdoor Commencement inside to the Houston Field House. The ceremony was held outdoors on the Harkness Field since 2003, until the move to ECAV in 2010.
Please Note: All numbers and facts include Troy campus students and degrees issued in August and December 2015. This information does not include the Rensselaer Hartford campus. All of the numbers cited are estimated as of May 28, 2015 and are subject to change up until Commencement.