Chancellor Howard Cohen told nearly 800 Purdue University Calumet graduates today (5/22) “to be continuous learners…to live effectively” and “to stay grounded in Enlightenment values.”
Speaking at his final Commencement Exercises after 10 years as chancellor—he is stepping down June 30—Cohen shared with the graduates how the virtues of American higher education are rooted in the 21st century information age and the 18th century Age of Enlightenment.
“You will need to be continuous learners if you are to live effectively in the 21st century,” he told graduates at afternoon and evening ceremonies at the Radisson Star Plaza Theatre. “But you will also need to stay grounded in Enlightenment values as you make your contributions to family and society.”
Purdue Calumet’s spring graduation class consists of individuals earning 789 degrees—180 masters, 544 baccalaureate and 65 associate. Including graduates from last fall and summer, Purdue Calumet’s Class of 2011 totals recipients of more than 1,500 degrees.
Offering faculty perspectives, Professor of Philosophy John Rowan told graduates participating at the 1:30 p.m. ceremony that success is a lifetime commitment. “You will be viewed by others as exemplars of excellence, as models of success, and it will be, therefore, incumbent upon you to live your lives accordingly,” he said. “At times, it will not be easy. Maintaining success requires fulfilling your responsibilities to others.”
Professor of Mechanical Engineering Bipin Pai, at the 6 p.m. program, reminded the honorees that their Commencement presence represents “the start of a new journey.” He then encouraged them to “be proud that you are a graduate of Purdue University Calumet and always have fun. If you have fun at what you do, I think our mission as a University has been accomplished just as much as yours.”
Representing Purdue’s Board of Trustees and West Lafayette campus, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Timothy Sands urged the graduates to put their education to work. “Put it to work to accomplish your dreams,” he said. “Put it to work to help this community and our state. Put it to work to help the people around you…”
In student responses on behalf of their graduating class, Jose Gutierrez of Munster and Jing Ma (Joy) of China shared challenges they overcame to succeed, while expressing appreciation for their support network of family, friends and professors.
“I was raised on food stamps, went to an underfunded, underachieving school in the gang-infested south side of Chicago and moved three times before attending Purdue University Calumet,” honor student Gutierrez, a double major in political science and Spanish, said during the afternoon ceremony. “I would not be here if it were not for the support I received from my mom and dad and other family members, along with the motivation from every professor I have had the privilege to learn from during my undergraduate career.”
Ma, also known as Joy, came to Purdue Calumet knowing little English, but persisted to master the language and graduate as an accomplished accounting and finance major. “I experienced many difficulties because of the language and cultural barriers,” she said during the evening program. “When I started, I slept only four to five hours a night because I had to study long hours. I could not understand the lectures, and I had to read my textbooks at least four times…I owe a personal gratitude to my support network: my parents, grandparents, boyfriend, mentors, friends and all my professors…”
The spring class increases to more than 44,000 the number of degrees awarded at Purdue Calumet.