Conferring degrees on Cornellians attending the winter graduate recognition event Dec. 21 in Barton Hall, President David J. Skorton recalled the legacy of Nelson Mandela – asking of each graduate “your personal commitment to lift the world’s burdens.”
With temperatures outside Barton Hall rivaling the May Commencement ceremony, students and families were welcomed by Professor Emeritus, Ombudsman and former Dean of the University Faculty Charles Walcott; addressed by Skorton and Senior Class President Robert Callahan; and treated to the reading of names of the 381 January degree candidates in attendance from all seven undergraduate colleges and the Graduate School. Approximately 980 students will receive their degrees in January – the largest number of January graduates in Cornell’s history.
Five university staff members earned graduate or professional degrees. In an academic-history first, one graduate of the Cornell Tech program in New York City attended to receive his Master of Engineering degree.
To the now-traditional “round of applause for the families and friends who helped make this day possible,” Skorton added another opportunity for gratitude: for “the generosity of our alumni and others, including your national governments, the state of New York and the university’s own resources.” Those earning graduate degrees, Skorton said, “likely received research funding from the federal government, the state, industry, foundations or philanthropy.
“The support you have received from so many others along the way to your Cornell degrees makes you part of a ‘virtuous circle’ with a responsibility ... to help others as you yourselves have been helped,” the university president said.
A Nelson Mandela memorial event, organized by Cornell students the previous Saturday, was still on Skorton’s mind when he quoted the South African leader: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
The Class of 2014 President Callahan commended the winter graduates for “doing it faster than the rest of us. I’m still going to be a student come January. Best of luck in your future endeavors; I look forward to hearing all about them.”