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Governor Deval Patrick Named Commencement Speaker

Students honored at Senior Breakfast


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 OB/GYN 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 EdD 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 U.S. 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 the seniors 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 the size of the bags allowed and not wearing their robes while going through through security.

More information about Commencement can be found here.

Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

11 Comments on Governor Deval Patrick Named Commencement Speaker

  • Graduating Senior on 05.02.2014 at 11:58 am

    I am disappointed with the choice of the commencement speaker. It’s a slap in the face to students who aren’t from, and/or students who aren’t staying in Massachusetts after graduation. Additionally because we are not a state school, this choice is particularly odd. Why would you have the governor speak at the commencement of a school where the majority of the people there can’t even vote in that state? A huge number of us are not residents of Massachusetts, and cannot possibly be constituents of the governor. We’re not even eligible for the Healthcare reforms he’s put in place. I’m deeply disappointed, BU. After putting in four years at an institution that touts it’s standing as an international leader, I am deeply disappointed at this underwhelming choice for my commencement speaker. Seriously, you could have done better.

    • Sane Graduating Senior on 05.02.2014 at 2:48 pm

      I’m glad you’re taking your snarky and short-sighted attitude back home, hopefully far away from Massachusetts.

      Clearly you can’t see that there is far more than his political work that is responsible for this choice. This is to hear a successful and accomplished individual speak, not limited just to people who may benefit from his policies. This will be a graduation speech focused away from politics and policy, regardless.

      If we had an international leader speak, would you complain too? You “cannot possibly” be a constituent of theirs, either. What a pathetic excuse to complain.

      The entitlement in your post of “deserving” a speaker because of putting in 4 years makes me wonder what you’re in this for, I know I have been in this for the degree and education, far more than something so insignificant as someone making a speech at graduation. I also don’t know why you feel you’re so entitled to someone of a certain stature to speak, either.

      As a graduating senior, I am delighted to have Governor Patrick speak at commencement.

    • Larry McGuirk on 05.04.2014 at 1:24 am

      Count your blessings. Governor Patrick is an accomplished speaker. After anticipating for four years who my son’s speaker might be it turned out to be Wendy Kopp. They’d had Eric Holder, Katie Couric and we got Wendy Kopp. Find a video of Ms. Kopp speaking and see if you can stay awake. Loved everything else BU did for my son [He has a job!] but I’ll always remember Wendy Kopp.

    • BU Alum on 05.17.2014 at 6:56 pm

      “Why would you have the governor speak at the commencement of a school where the majority of the people there can’t even vote in that state?”

      …………………? Because he’s a governor? I imagine he worked pretty hard to get to that position, and probably has some things to say regardless of whether you are a constituent of his or not.

      If David Cameron or Angela Merkel were selected as the Commencement speaker, would you pooh-pooh them as well, just because you are not directly affected by their policies?

  • Proud Graduating Senior on 05.02.2014 at 12:24 pm

    I don’t know what the above poster is talking about. Deval Patrick is one of the most respected leaders in the country and a one of the most innovative Governors. Every student of BU who is a US citizen is eligible to vote in Mass. and many from other states have voted for Deval Patrick. He is a huge get for BU and ranks with Political Leaders like Elizabeth Warren, Barrack Obama, and Michelle Obama. I am excited to welcome such a distinguished guest.

    • Not You on 05.02.2014 at 1:58 pm

      I wouldn’t want Warren or either of the Obama’s either.

  • Alumni on 05.02.2014 at 12:56 pm

    Bill Cosby and Mayim Bialik will also be there receiving honorary degrees. That’s pretty cool!

  • BU Staff on 05.02.2014 at 5:28 pm

    This is a great choice. I don’t share many political views with the Governor, but without question he is a tremendously gifted and inspirational speaker. My guess is that the graduates will get a humorous, interesting and thought provoking speech that will stay with them for a long time.

  • From California on 05.05.2014 at 1:12 am

    When we (parents) sat in the auditorium 4 years ago wondering/asking Dean Elmore why we should send our daughter to BU? Boy was he a true salesman! He could have sold us a couch on the street because he was so persuasive! Convinced that she will receive a great education we decided to send her….. boy did we make the BEST DECISION ever! She has had a time of her life in Boston, MA! The best part was that, not only did she worked hard, studied hard, she also danced hard for BU! We have enjoyed attending her four (4) years dance finals in Dayton Beach, FL. This year was special… she and her dance team brought home the NCAA National Championship Hip Hop and placed 2nd in NDA Dance Finals almost beating out Towson University. IT was really cool when she shared her photos of herself and the dance team members were invited to dine with Dean Elmore in his home! How cool is that?!!
    Now, we are returning back to Boston University to hear Bill Cosby speak, that’s really icing on the cake! Topping it off with Governor Patrick… it doesn’t get any better!!
    Thanks BU for all the great experiences our daughter has had in your historical institution! We look forward to her commencement on Sunday, May 18th!

    The Mar Family

    • Mike on 05.05.2014 at 1:01 pm

      We love you too!

  • Cosby Show Enthusiast on 05.06.2014 at 8:46 pm

    Bill Cosby played an obstetrician on The Cosby Show not a pediatrician. Super excited about commencement!

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