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2006 Commencement student speaker chosen

Thomas Duncombe gets the nod, and the butterflies

Thomas Duncombe (CAS'06,COM'06)

There is an art to public speaking. Public speakers should speak with conviction, they should avoid reading from notes, they should pause, add humor when appropriate, and maintain eye contact. For Thomas Duncombe, it’s the eye contact part that is the most challenging. Duncombe, who has been chosen student speaker at the 2006 Boston University Commencement, isn’t sure how to maintain eye contact with many thousands of listeners.

In fact, the English and film major admits that none of his past experiences has prepared him adequately for addressing such a large gathering.
“I will definitely be nervous,” says Duncombe (CAS’06, COM’06). “I’ve never spoken in front of nearly this many people before, but I know my family, my girlfriend, my fellow Bay State Road RAs, and all my other BU friends will be in the crowd. With their support, I think I’ll be all right.”

He learned of the honor last Wednesday, when Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore told him he had been chosen from a pool of many candidates applying to be class speaker. Seniors with a minimum GPA of 3.7 are invited by the President’s Office to apply for the role at graduation by submitting a speech.

After the initial shock, he says, he was left with sheer excitement. “I couldn’t believe it. I hoped I would win, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. I’m thrilled to have been selected. It’s a great honor.”

BU has served him well, Duncombe says, as it has his two sisters, both of whom graduated from the University. Their mother, Linda, is a Sargent College associate professor of occupational therapy and rehabilitation. “I’ve been part of the BU
community for a while now,” he says.

And the BU connection may continue. After graduation, Duncombe hopes to study public interest law at Georgetown University, Cornell University, or — yes — Boston University.
Over the next couple of weeks, Duncombe will work closely with Elmore to fine-tune his presentation. Together, he says, they will go over the details of his speech, the delivery, and the logistics of speaking in an open-air arena. And while he won’t reveal exactly what his already written speech is about, he does say that he hopes it will inspire his fellow classmates to use the knowledge and experience they have gained at BU to be successful in whatever career paths they follow.

“My speech has got to do with what you choose to do with your degree,” he says. “I think it’s not too bad, but I’m a little biased.”