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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will deliver Boston University’s 141st Commencement address on Sunday, May 18, at Nickerson Field.
University President Robert A. Brown made the announcement Friday morning during the Class of 2014 Senior Breakfast at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom, where 2,200 students gathered over a breakfast of pesto bruschetta strata, blueberry scones, and hot coffee.
“This is the only time we could get you up this early, other than Patriots’ Day,” event emcee Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), dean of students, told the seniors.
Patrick will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. The president also named this year’s other honorary degree recipients: Emmy-winning actor and education advocate Bill Cosby, Doctor of Humane Letters; BU trustee Rajen Kilachand (GSM’74), Doctor of Humane Letters; chief executive officer and cofounder of City Year Michael Brown, Doctor of Humane Letters; Emmy-nominated actress and writer Mayim Hoya Bialik, Doctor of Humane Letters; and MIT molecular biologist Nancy Hopkins, Doctor of Science. Hopkins will also give the Baccalaureate speech on Commencement morning at Marsh Chapel.
Brown’s announcement of Cosby elicited huge applause and cheering from the standing-room-only crowd, which was so big that some seniors had to be seated downstairs in the GSU BackCourt and watch the proceedings on TV screens.
Public relations major Taryana Gilbeau (COM’14) has been selected as this year’s student speaker, and vocal performance major Melanie Burbules (CFA’14) will sing the national anthem and “Clarissima,” BU’s school anthem.
Brown also announced the winners of the University’s highest teaching honors. Dorothy “Stormy” Attaway (GRS’83,’88), a College of Engineering assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will receive the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Two other faculty members will receive a Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching: Terry Everson, a College of Fine Arts associate professor of music, and Alan P. Marscher, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of astronomy. The Metcalf honors are presented at Commencement.
A native of Chicago, Patrick first came to Massachusetts in 1970 at age 14 after being awarded a scholarship to Milton Academy. The first in his family to attend college, he graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After serving as a law clerk for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, he worked in the private sector, rising to senior positions at Texaco and Coca-Cola. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed him assistant attorney general for civil rights, the nation’s top civil rights post.
Elected governor in 2006 amidst a challenging economic environment, Patrick has expanded the state’s investment in critical growth sectors while cutting state spending. During his tenure, he has funded public education at the highest levels in the history of the commonwealth. Massachusetts’ school reform initiatives earned the top spot in the national Race to the Top competition. Additionally, he has positioned the Bay State as a global leader in biotech, biopharmaceuticals, and information technology, and as a national leader in clean energy.
Patrick oversaw the expansion of affordable health care insurance to more than 98 percent of Massachusetts residents. His administration is also credited with accomplishing major reforms in the state’s pension systems, ethics laws, and transportation bureaucracy.
Cosby dropped out of high school and joined the US Navy. When he left the service four years later, he enrolled at Temple University. While at Temple, he worked part-time as a bartender and quickly learned that he could earn more money in tips if he made his customers laugh. He left college to become a stand-up comedian and began his television career in 1965 with I Spy, as the first African American to costar in a dramatic series. He went on to earn three consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He is perhaps best known for his starring role as pediatrician Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show, which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1992 and was one of the highest rated comedies of all time.
Known for his commitment to education and to family, Cosby went back to college in the 1970s, earning a PhD in education from the University of Massachusetts. He has publicly advocated for parents and community leaders to instill values and a sense of responsibility in children from an early age. He was the School of Education’s convocation speaker in 2013. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
Kilachand is the president and chair of the Dodsal Group, a Dubai-based multinational company with engineering, mining, trading, and hospitality interests. Today, Dodsal is one of the leading energy and infrastructure development companies in the world.
Over the years, Kilachand has made personal philanthropic commitments to support initiatives that span health care, vocational training and education, libraries, teacher-training institutions, and cultural initiatives. He is a sponsor of community theaters and festivals devoted to music and art around the world, including the New Orleans Jazz Festival. He supports AIDS awareness programs in Africa and Papua New Guinea. Kilachand’s gifts to BU total $35 million. He has endowed the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College and Professorship, and he has supported the establishment of Kilachand Hall as the home of the Kilachand Honors College.
Brown is chief executive officer and cofounder of City Year, a Boston-based nonprofit that mobilizes young people for a year of service in high-need schools in 25 US cities. He founded the organization in 1988 with his Harvard roommate, Alan Khazei. Today, 2,700 City Year corps members are helping to address the nation’s high school dropout crisis and turn around low-performing schools by serving as full-time tutors, mentors, and role models in high-need schools across the nation. City Year also has affiliates in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Through its national initiative In School and On Track: A National Challenge, City Year aims to significantly increase the urban graduation pipeline in America. City Year has more than 18,000 alumni who have contributed more than 29 million hours of service and earned access to $71 million in college scholarships through the AmeriCorps National Service Trust.
For advancing the national service movement, Brown has been awarded the Reebok Human Rights Award. He has been named one of America’s Best Leaders by US News & World Report and an Executive of the Year and a member of the Power and Influence Top 50 by The NonProfit Times.
Bialik first gained attention for her portrayal of Bette Midler’s character as a child in the 1988 movie Beaches and subsequently became widely known for her lead role as Blossom Russo in the early 1990s NBC television comedy Blossom. She now stars in the hit CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, playing neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, a role that has earned her two Emmy nominations.
Bialik is especially well suited to portray a neurobiologist: after earning an undergraduate degree from UCLA in 2000 with a double major in neuroscience and Jewish studies and Hebrew, she went on to earn a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, in 2007. Her dissertation was titled Hypothalamic Regulation in Relation to Maladaptive, Obsessive-compulsive, Affiliative, and Satiety Behaviors in Prader-Willi Syndrome.
A dedicated student leader at UCLA Hillel, Bialik describes herself as an avid student of all things Jewish, meeting with several study partners weekly and speaking throughout the country on behalf of Jewish and academic institutions and organizations.
A mother and a writer, she is the author of Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way and a vegan cookbook, Mayim’s Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours.
Hopkins is a molecular biologist and the Amgen, Inc., Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a junior at Radcliffe College, considering possible career paths in architecture or medicine, she attended a lecture by James Watson, codiscoverer of the structure of DNA. That lecture inspired her to become a research scientist.
Early in her career, Hopkins became interested in probing the genetics of animal tumor viruses, an interest she pursued as a postdoctoral researcher at Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory, working with Watson, her mentor. In 1973, she was invited to join the faculty of MIT at the newly constructed Center for Cancer Research. She changed her research focus from DNA tumor viruses to RNA tumor viruses, before turning to the developmental genetics in zebrafish. Hopkins’ laboratory identified genes essential for zebrafish development, with implications for better understanding development in other species.
Outside the lab, Hopkins initiated an examination of possible gender bias against women scientists; a summary of the study was published in 1999. In 2000, she was named cochair of the first Council on Faculty Diversity at MIT, along with BU President Robert A. Brown, then MIT provost. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Brown had words of encouragement for the graduating class. When they joined BU in 2010, it was in the midst of “what will one day be called the great recession,” Brown said. “As the economy has improved, there are more job opportunities for you than the class before you….I hope you frame your diploma and hang it on the wall. View it as a stock certificate on your education. We will work hard to make it more valuable in the coming years.”
As students were noshing, a slideshow of events over the past four years was played, paired to songs like Katy Perry’s “California Girls.” Elmore spoke to them about Commencement Day, reminding them to wear comfy shoes and that new security measures were in effect, such as restrictions on the size of the bags allowed.
More information about Commencement can be found here.