To kick off the Commencement weekend, the annual President’s Commencement Colloquy will take place on Friday, May 19, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The discussion, titled “Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity,” will include the Honorable Ernest J. Moniz, former Secretary of Energy, and the Honorable Roger W. Ferguson Jr., President and CEO of TIAA, and will be moderated by President Shirley Ann Jackson.
Both Moniz and Ferguson will receive honorary degrees at the 2017 Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 20. Moniz will deliver the keynote address to the graduates during the 211th Commencement Ceremony.
“Rensselaer is establishing a new paradigm for the technological research university that we term ‘The New Polytechnic,’ in which we serve as a great crossroads for the exchange of ideas,” said President Jackson. “Secretary Moniz and Dr. Ferguson are leaders in very different realms, who both have successfully defused crises, as well as helped our nation and the world to address perennial social, economic, environmental, and security challenges.”
For the past 14 years, the Commencement Colloquy has served as a forum for discussion between leaders and influencers with diverse perspectives on global challenges. Past Colloquy participants have included Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution David Skorton, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group David M. Rubenstein, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Congressman John R. Lewis.
The Colloquy will take place in the concert hall of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Ernest J. Moniz served as United States Secretary of Energy from May 21, 2013 to January 19, 2017. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree at the Commencement Ceremony. As Secretary, he advanced energy technology innovation, nuclear security and strategic stability, cutting-edge capabilities for the American scientific research community, and environmental stewardship. He strengthened the Department of Energy (DOE) strategic partnership with its 17 national laboratories and with the Department of Defense and the broader national security establishment. Specific accomplishments included producing analytically based energy policy proposals that attracted bipartisan support and implementing legislation, leading an international initiative that placed energy science and technology innovation at the center of the global response to climate change, and negotiating alongside the Secretary of State the historic Iran nuclear agreement.
Prior to his appointment, Moniz was the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he had been a faculty member since 1973. At MIT, he headed the Department of Physics and the Bates Linear Accelerator Center. Most recently, Moniz served as the founding Director of the MIT Energy Initiative and as Director of the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment where he was a leader of multidisciplinary technology and policy studies on the future of nuclear power, coal, nuclear fuel cycles, natural gas, and solar energy in a low-carbon world.
From 1997 until January 2001, Moniz served as Under Secretary of the Department of Energy. He was responsible for overseeing the Department’s science and energy programs, leading a comprehensive review of nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship, and serving as the Secretary’s special negotiator for the disposition of Russian nuclear materials. From 1995 to 1997, he served as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the Commencement Ceremony.
Roger Ferguson is president and chief executive officer of TIAA. He is the former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System. He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the Commencement Ceremony.
He represented the Federal Reserve on several international policy groups and served on key Federal Reserve System committees, including Payment System Oversight, Reserve Bank Operations, and Supervision and Regulation. As the only Governor in Washington, D.C., on 9/11, he led the Fed’s initial response to the terrorist attacks, taking actions that kept the U.S. financial system functioning while reassuring the global financial community that the U.S. economy would not be paralyzed.
Prior to joining TIAA in April 2008, Ferguson was head of financial services for Swiss Re, Chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation, and a member of the company’s executive committee. From 1984 to 1997, he was an associate and partner at McKinsey & Company. He began his career as an attorney at the New York City office of Davis Polk & Wardwell.
Ferguson is a fellow of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and co-chairs its Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education. He serves on the boards of Alphabet Inc., General Mills Inc., and International Flavors & Fragrances Inc.