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The Return Gift

Daniel Bellin will speak for his class, and to the world


Daniel Bellin (ENG’09) is the student speaker at Boston University’s 136th Commencement ceremony. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bellin

The letter that changed Daniel Bellin’s life arrived one spring afternoon four years ago. Until then, he had not dared to raise his hopes, but there it was, in black-and-white: a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Boston University.

Growing up in Newton, Mass., Bellin (ENG’09) attended Maimonides Day School, a private Jewish school in Brookline, for 13 years. “My parents had to make tremendous financial sacrifices to send me there,” he says. “So winning a Trustee Scholarship was the best gift I could give them.”

This Sunday, Bellin will give his parents — and 4,000 classmates — a return gift. He will deliver the student address at Boston University’s 136th Commencement ceremony. “I’m nervous,” he admits. “If I think too much about how many people are going to be on Nickerson Field, I’ll panic.”

Bellin graduates summa cum laude with a degree in biomedical engineering. This fall he will pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Columbia University, where he received the Presidential Distinguished Fellowship. His Commencement speech will focus on the accomplishments of his peers.

Winning the honor of taking the podium on Sunday is a major accomplishment in itself. More than 300 seniors with the highest grade point averages (or a personal recommendation from a dean) are invited to submit a potential Commencement address to a faculty committee appointed by BU President Robert A. Brown. The top five are asked to deliver that speech in an auditorium setting. The committee then reconvenes and makes its choice.

Echoing his theme, Bellin says that he’s “feeling an entire generational shift,” pointing out that the current crop of college students volunteers more than previous generations, is politically engaged, and supports equal roles for women in society. “We reject the idea that we have little in common with people of other races,” he adds. “We are a well-educated, innovative, multitalented community.

“I hope I send a message that people in my class will relate to. I want everyone to know how special we are. I want them to believe that we will confront challenges and use our traits and knowledge to make a difference.”

Bellin recalls arriving at BU as a “sheltered freshman.” During his four years he met people from all walks of life and who inspired him in countless ways. “Coming here from a place where everyone was Jewish, it took me a bit by surprise,” he says. “But I’m so grateful to have met so many different people and to have learned from their perspectives.”

Bellin sought out members of his Orthodox Jewish faith at BU’s Hillel House. “Spirituality is extremely important to me,” he says, “and at a huge school like BU, it was important for me to find a community within a community.”

Bellin conducted research in the BU orthopedic and developmental biomechanics and neuromuscular research labs, where he studied motor-unit firings that produce muscle contractions. During summer 2007, he worked with Elise Morgan, an ENG assistant professor of biomedical engineering, to develop methods for calculating bone area from computerized tomography. The pair continued their research the following summer through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

A member of the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi and the biomedical engineering society Alpha Eta Mu Beta, Bellin received numerous research grants and fellowships, including the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship from the Department of Defense.

He hopes to pursue a research project that has an impact on health and medicine. “It’s okay if it’s not a huge global impact,” he says. “Even if it’s just one small thing, if I make any contribution toward bettering society, I’ll be satisfied.”

Follow Commencement coverage.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.


6 Comments on The Return Gift

  • Anonymous on 05.15.2009 at 9:01 am


  • Ari Trachtenberg on 05.15.2009 at 11:16 am


    It’s always great to see well-rounded students with a health perspective on the world.

  • Anonymous on 05.15.2009 at 2:46 pm

    I wish you continued success. Go make your parents PROUDER than life!

    all of us at BU should be proud to have you associated with the university. I know I do.

  • Reena Slovin on 05.17.2009 at 11:45 am

    Congratulations Daniel - I

    Congratulations Daniel –
    I know your mother from our junior year abroad in Israel and then we lived together for a year in Brookline. I now spend a lot of time at your alma mater – Maimonides where I will be working full time next year. Yishar Kochecha! I am very pleased for you and your family.

  • Anonymous on 05.17.2009 at 4:20 pm

    How can we watch it online?

  • Anonymous on 05.19.2009 at 1:27 pm

    We are all so proud

    We have all told you this probably more times than you can count, but it must be said again. You make us so proud! You have been an integral asset to our community and to the lives of many of us personally and we could not ask for anything more than to be able to share in this great moment in your life. Danny Bellin, you will go far and do much and we cannot wait to see what your future holds. Mazal Tov!

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