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Google’s Schmidt Is Commencement Speaker

Honorary degree recipients revealed at Senior Breakfast


Google executive chairman Eric. E. Schmidt will give Boston University’s 139th Commencement address on Sunday, May 20, at Nickerson Field.

University President Robert A. Brown made the announcement at the Class of 2012 Senior Breakfast at the George Sherman Union’s Metcalf Ballroom, where a record-breaking 2,100 students gathered this morning. Seniors gave a collective gasp, absorbed the information, and then burst into applause in appreciation of the University’s choice.

Schmidt will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree, Brown said. The president also named the other honorary degree recipients: aeronautical engineer Norman Augustine, Doctor of Science; U.S. Navy Captain Thomas Kelley, Doctor of Laws; actor and photographer Leonard Nimoy, Doctor of Humane Letters; and chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Sandra Lynch (LAW’71), Doctor of Laws. Lynch will also give the Baccalaureate speech on Commencement morning. Philosophy major Leila Belmahi (CAS’12) will be the student speaker.

“Your education at BU is the confluence of your hard work and the influence of the professors who taught you,” Brown told the graduates before announcing the winners of the University’s highest teaching honors. Andrew Duffy, a College of Arts & Sciences master lecturer in physics, will receive the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Two other faculty members will receive a Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching: Robert C. Lowe, a School of Medicine associate professor of gastroenterology, and Marisa Milanese, a CAS senior lecturer in the writing program.

“No matter how you slice it,” Brown said, “you’re completing a college education, and you’re doing it at a very good university.”

Schmidt, 57, was Google’s chief executive officer from 2001 to 2011, when he handed the reins back to Larry Page, who cofounded the company with Sergey Brin in 1998. As CEO, Schmidt oversaw the company’s technical and business strategy, helping grow the company from a Silicon Valley start-up to a global household name with nearly 30,000 employees.

Now, as Google’s executive chairman, Schmidt advises senior managers and is responsible for government outreach, technology thought leadership, and building the company’s partnerships and broader business relationships.

A Virginia native, Schmidt has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University and a master’s degree and a doctorate in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to his time at Google, he was chairman and CEO of Novell and chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems, Inc. He also worked on the research staff at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Bell Laboratories, and Zilog.

Augustine, a Colorado native and another Princeton graduate, is an aeronautical engineer by training; his successful career has straddled both the private and the public worlds. He has worked for such companies as Douglas Aircraft Company, LTV Missiles and Space Company, Martin Marietta Corporation, and Lockheed Martin, retiring as chairman and CEO in 1997. He has also served in the federal government, as the assistant director of defense research and engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and as assistant secretary of the Army, Under Secretary of the Army, and Acting Secretary of the Army. And for 16 years he was on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Kelley joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from the College of the Holy Cross in 1960. The Boston native was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and leadership during a Vietnam War battle, where he lost an eye, but saved his men from certain death. After retiring from the Navy in 1990 as a captain, he worked for the U.S. Department of Defense and then as commissioner and secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services.

Lynch, a 1971 School of Law graduate, has served as the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit since 2008. She was first appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the first woman to break that barrier. She also was the first female law clerk in the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island and the first to be the head of the litigation department in the Boston law firm Foley, Hoag and Eliot. At the state level, she served as Massachusetts assistant attorney general and general counsel to the state’s Department of Education. The New York Times once reported that her opinions were among the most cited federal court of appeals decisions.

Boston native Nimoy is best known for playing the Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock in the television series Star Trek, a role for which he received three Emmy nominations. But the son of Russian Jewish immigrants has many more television, stage, and film accolades. He directed films like Three Men and a Baby and The Good Mother. He has starred on Broadway in Equus and Full Circle. And he received his fourth Emmy nomination for his appearance in A Woman Called Golda. He also is a fine art photographer whose work has appeared in private collections, galleries, and museums throughout the country.

The Class Gift campaign this year was successful, garnering more than 2,030 donations from seniors. So after the announcements, Dean of Students Elmore (SED’87) bounded onstage in a Red Sox jersey and asked Brown to pick a lucky senior’s name from a gigantic glass goblet, honoring this year’s incentive encouraging seniors to donate. The president dug his hand deep into the sea of paper slips and came up with Class Gift donor Dylan M. Moir (COM’12), who will throw out the first pitch at the Red Sox home game against the Seattle Mariners on May 15, accompanied by Rhett.

Then Brown left the Class of 2012 with this poem:

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will

will be killed.

Every morning in Africa a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle
or it will starve.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a
gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d
better be running.

Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

23 Comments on Google’s Schmidt Is Commencement Speaker

  • anonymous on 05.04.2012 at 5:37 am

    Maybe this is just me but is that poem erie or what?

    “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a
    gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d
    better be running”.

    is this some kind of capitalist mantra that we’re all supposed to be chanting in our heads? Sorry I don’t mean to be a wise guy but yo – life in this kind of BU world is made up of an endless series of small emergencies. thats what this quote reminds me of- the endless deadlines and the great things that are always just around the corner… why can’t we just BE HERE NOW and appreciate the wonder and beauty of life/god/whatever without reducing it to this ultra competetive “acheiver” mindset? What are we actually achieving besides destroying all life on this planet? Why Schmidt when we could have gotten someone like Chomsky or Ram Das? Whatever though I know haters are gonna attack this, I’m just glad this corporation still has some great professors… last thing though before I graduate: when you have a ten million dollar gym the basketball courts are awesome but people stop going to the park… think about it im out

    • Sara on 05.04.2012 at 9:15 am

      No I agree, the poem is eerie and doesn’t really fit. Also I’m sitting still right now as I type this–better get moving before that lion comes along!

    • Anonymous Rocks on 05.04.2012 at 9:25 am

      Anonymous hit the nail on the head; most of us are already running, but in circles. Unless we jump off the treadmill long enough to reflect on what’s really working/not working in our society, we will lack the wisdom to move the world to a better place.

      • Ginna Hall on 05.04.2012 at 10:23 am

        Anonymous, I love your comment. It’s good to run on occasion, but walking or even sitting and contemplating are also necessary for the well-being of all creatures, including lions and gazelles.

    • anonymousreply on 05.04.2012 at 10:17 am

      You’re lucky the lion is not in your park because you would be dinner and the slowest gazelle could enjoy the here and now.

    • Jim on 05.04.2012 at 2:19 pm

      Are lion and gazelle the only two choices?

      Can I be a turtle? Lions don’t eat turtles right?

      • chungang on 05.05.2012 at 2:38 pm

        Bingo–Turtle may be the wisest creature in this planet!

    • Ben on 05.09.2012 at 7:17 pm

      That does sound a little creepy. It does get you thinking, though.

      Eric Schmidt happens to be a great choice for a speaker–he has made a real difference in our world and helped/helps make knowledge more accessible to everyone more easily. He is politically unbiased, whereas someone like Chomsky or Ram Das may only appeal to certain members of the student community, though they would have been interesting as well.

  • Uh noo. on 05.04.2012 at 6:30 am

    We (seniors) didn’t give a “collective gasp”. We paused to figure out who Eric Shmidt was, then we clapped (because it was the right thing to do).

    • Anonymous on 05.04.2012 at 11:44 am

      Agreed, I certainly don’t think there was a “burst of applause in appreciation”. I think the “gasps” were more “gasps” if disappointment.

      • Kate on 05.04.2012 at 2:05 pm

        Completely agreed. With all due respect to the reporter, that “description” is so far off base. At least where I was sitting there was some confused silence and then awkward slow-clapping. I was disappointed with how Pres. Brown announced it too, I barely realized he had moved on to commencement speaker from the last honorary degree recipient!

  • person on 05.04.2012 at 10:26 am

    Let us not forget the Leonard Nimoy sings album. Especially the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.

  • RB on 05.04.2012 at 11:52 am

    The quote is timely and appropriate especially for new grads. It stresses the importance of readiness at wherever you are, whether hunter or prey. Brown was clearly trying to get at how you are prepared as a result as he would put it of “completing a college education, and you’re doing it at a very good university.”

    As for time to appreciate the NOW, Lions don’t hunt 24/7… Only once a day and then only for 1-2hrs at a time, so the gazelle doesn’t have to be on edge the entire day. There is safety in numbers, and the wind lets you know when the hunter is approaching.

    With the hunter, the hunt last for about 2 mins. The majority of a lion’s time is spent chillin and raising cubs… Lots of NOW time.

  • Concerned Mother on 05.04.2012 at 12:38 pm

    does this mean the President is an evolutionist??

    • RA on 05.04.2012 at 10:41 pm

      You should be very very concerned.

  • unknown on 05.04.2012 at 1:30 pm

    A commencement speaker should be someone that the graduating class (aka a bunch of 21 and 22 year olds) would be interested in hearing and WANT to hear. I am very disappointed that BU. But I guess it is classic BU style, MAKING us listen to someone we dont want to talk for an extended amount of time. Isn’t graduation supposed to be fun?

    • A on 05.04.2012 at 2:24 pm

      Then don’t go. I’m going to my own school graduation then peacing.
      From what I’ve heard, if you miss university graduation, you’re not missing much.
      Wish we had someone entertaining like Katie Couric last year.

    • Eric S on 05.04.2012 at 3:00 pm

      The chosen speaker, whether famous or not, is someone who has achieved a great deal and can share experiences and advice with the graduating class. Don’t underestimate the quality of speech you’ll get from Eric. Last year, Katie Couric gave a fabulous speech, and I don’t think she would necessarily be anyone’s choice for a commencement speaker.

  • just.a.girl on 05.04.2012 at 4:07 pm

    are we actually complaining that a chariman of Google is going to be our speaker, seriously? I’m sorry I do want to hear speak someone as successful as he is before i venure into my career…

    • RA on 05.04.2012 at 10:39 pm

      Ummm I disagree…. you will hear bunch of CEO’s in your lifetime speak. If I wanted to hear what the former or next CEO of a multi-billion dollar company has to say I would pick up the WSJ…. Graduation is an event where you should be able to enjoy yourself and hear someone tell you something positive that you can enjoy. As a 21 or 22 year old, I know what comes next in life and I dont need a FORMER CEO to tell me anything… I wouldve preferred a comedian to lighten the mood knowing the next few years will involve work work and more work.

      BTW, if you need someone to tell you how to become successful at your upcoming career, maybe you should reconsider your career. People who succeed in life know what they want for themselves and also require a tad bit of luck. Bet you the speaker wont ever tell you that.

  • BU student on 05.06.2012 at 2:55 pm

    I am extremely excited for the commencement. I think it will be very interesting to hear someone who had a technical background (engineer) speak about their life and career. I’m sick of hearing speakers from the entertaining industry or TV (like Katie Couric). They obviously know how to entertain but at such a crucial moment like commencement, I don’t want to just watch another TV show. I want something more REAL and Schmidt is a great candidate for that.

  • Ben on 05.09.2012 at 7:14 pm

    I’m glad to have such a great and influential person in this world speak at our school. He’s a smart guy we can learn from.

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