This spring, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the United States, will award a total of 1,926 degrees—154 doctoral degrees, 373 master’s degrees, and 1,399 bachelor’s degrees—to 1,888 students, some of whom have earned more than one degree.
These accomplishments will be celebrated during the 213th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 18, beginning at 8:15 a.m. in the East Campus Athletic Village stadium on the Rensselaer campus.
The following overview provides facts, figures, and useful information about the ceremony and its participants.
The Class of 2019
Students in the Class of 2019 hail from 44 states, including New York, and 29 other nations, including Bangladesh, China, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Nepal, Singapore, Taiwan, and Venezuela.
Nine undergraduate students receiving bachelor’s degrees earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average. They are Jack Cristopher Dates, computer science; Stephanie Deeb, biochemistry and biophysics; Sairisheel Reddy Gabbireddy, biology; Landon James Kilgallon, chemistry; Shuze Liu, computer science; Trevor Blake Maxfield, mathematics/computer science; Quientin Hamilton Morrison, economics; Kyle A. Rego, physics; and Zeyuan Zhao, computer science.
During Commencement, Rego will receive the J. Erik Jonsson Prize, which was established by J. Erik Jonsson ’22 to honor the senior who has achieved the highest academic record in the class.
Many graduates will continue their studies after graduation. Among the schools that graduates will be attending are Albany Medical College, Cornell University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Savannah College of Art & Design, University of Saint Andrews, Vanderbilt University, Yale University, and, of course, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Those graduates heading directly to professional positions will be joining such companies as Bloomberg, Boston Scientific, Emerson, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Frito-Lay, Hospital for Special Surgery, MathWorks, Raytheon, Sandia National Laboratories, and SpaceX.
Rensselaer graduates continue to enjoy overall higher starting salaries compared to national averages. Last year, the average starting salary for all reported undergraduate bachelor’s degree candidates from the Class of 2018 was $70,853, compared to a national average of $50,004, as reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Each year, the graduating class presents the university with a unique class gift. This year, the Class of 2019 has chosen to provide financial support for future students to attend Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond, a program that provides opportunities for incoming first-years to meet their classmates and bond through different overnight trips around the Capital Region.
The 213th Commencement Ceremony
Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, whose accomplished career encompasses senior leadership positions in academia, government, and industry, will preside over the ceremony and address the Class of 2019.
The Honorable John P. Holdren, who served as President Obama’s Science Advisor from January 2009 until January 2017, will be the official Commencement speaker and receive an Honorary Doctor of Science.
From 1996 through 2008, Holdren was Teresa & John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and Professor of Environmental Science & Policy in Harvard’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences—positions to which he was re-appointed in February 2017. He is a member of the U.S. National Academies of Science and Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among other U.S. and foreign academies. From 1973 to 1996, he taught at UC Berkeley, where he co-founded the interdisciplinary graduate-degree program in energy and resources.He earned S.B. and S.M. degrees from MIT and a Ph.D. from Stanford in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics.
Dr. Helene Gayle, the president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, will address the graduates and receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
An expert in public health and global development, Gayle previously served as president and CEO of CARE, and held leadership roles at the Centers for Disease Control and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Named one of Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women,” Dr. Gayle serves on the Board of Directors at The Coca-Cola Company, Colgate-Palmolive Company, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Rockefeller Foundation, Brookings Institution, New America, and the ONE Campaign. Dr. Gayle earned a B.A. from Barnard College, an M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, an M.P.H. at Johns Hopkins University, and has 16 honorary degrees.
James J. Barba, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Albany Med, will provide remarks and receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws.
As the head of the only academic health sciences center in northeastern New York, Barba oversees the largest locally governed health-care system in 25 counties as well as Albany Medical College, one of the nation’s oldest medical schools; a biomedical research operation; a workforce of more than 13,000; and a Physician Practice Group of over 650. From 1994 to 2006, he also served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Albany Medical Center. Barba has served on numerous special commissions and councils by gubernatorial appointment and at the request of his peers. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School and a graduate of Siena College.
Class President Kinsley Rowan will also address the graduates. A biomedical engineering major from Portland, Oregon, she has been the Class of 2019 president for the past year, and was active in Class Council and Student Senate for two and a half years prior. She will be starting her master’s of engineering in systems engineering and technology management at Rensselaer this fall.
The graduate student speaker will be Michael Conward, from Miami, Florida, former president of the Black Graduate Student Association. Conward received his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from the George Washington University and his doctor of philosophy in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer. He is currently director of new product development at SelfArray in Troy.
Sibel Adali, associate dean of science for research and graduate programs and professor of computer science, has been selected as the recipient of the David M. Darrin ’40 Counseling Award, which will be presented during Commencement. This award was established by David M. Darrin ’40 to recognize a faculty member who has made an unusual contribution in the counseling of undergraduate students. The selection of the award recipient is made by Phalanx, Rensselaer’s student leadership honorary society.
Please Note: All numbers and facts include Troy and Hartford campus students and degrees issued in August and December 2018. All of the numbers cited are estimated as of May 13, 2019, and are subject to change up until Commencement.