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Portrait of Laura Carstensen ’78

2024 Commencement Speaker

Laura Carstensen ’78

Stanford’s Laura Carstensen ’78 delivers 2024 Commencement address

Alumna Laura Carstensen ’78, a Stanford University research psychologist and internationally renowned expert on aging and the effects on well-being of extended lifetimes, delivered the 2024 address at the University Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 17. The 174th ceremony was held in Fauver Stadium at the Brian F. Prince Athletic Complex on the River Campus and marked the conferral of academic degrees for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Carstensen received an honorary doctor of science degree at Friday’s ceremony.

“I look forward to welcoming Professor Carstensen back to campus and back home to Rochester as an honorary degree recipient and our 2024 Commencement speaker,” said University President Sarah Mangelsdorf. “We’re honored to recognize her work in pursuit of making life ever better in our increasingly ever longer existence—science that is the very embodiment of our Meliora spirit. She is a strong advocate for lifelong learning as a catalyst to a long and fulfilling life, and I know she will inspire our graduates as they continue their journey as lifelong learners.”

Carstensen is a professor of psychology and the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy at Stanford University, and the founding director of the internationally recognized Stanford Center on Longevity. An authority in the field of psychological aging, her research on the theoretical and empirical study of motivational, cognitive, and emotional aspects of aging has been funded continuously by the National Institute on Aging for more than 30 years.

In 2007, she founded the Stanford Center on Longevity to accelerate and implement scientific discoveries, technological advances, behavioral practices, and social norms so that century-long lives are healthy and rewarding. By fostering dialogue and collaborations among typically disconnected worlds, the center aims to develop workable solutions for urgent issues confronting the world as the population ages. With these collaborations, the center looks to redesign how we live our lives so that the great potential of longer life is fully realized.

She is widely known for her socioemotional selectivity theory, a life-span theory of motivation that describes how people’s goals change over their lifetime. Among her books is A Long Bright Future: Happiness, Health, and Financial Security in an Age of Increased Longevity (‎PublicAffairs, 2011).

A member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she served on the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on an Aging Society and was a commissioner on the Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity. Carstensen’s awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Kleemeier Award, the Richard Kalish Award for Innovative Research, and distinguished mentor awards from both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Psychological Association.

She received a bachelor’s degree in social science from Rochester and a PhD in clinical psychology from West Virginia University. She is a Rochester native and her father, the late Edwin Carstensen, was a pioneering engineering researcher and beloved faculty member in what is now known as the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences for more than 40 years.

Carstensen is one of several invited guests honored during this spring’s ceremonies. In addition to Carstensen, the University presented honorary degrees to E. Michael Campbell, former director of the University’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, and to alumna Maria Schneider ’85E (MM), a seven-time Grammy Award–winning composer and recording artist.

Other honorees include:

  • Transplant surgeon Robert Montgomery ’87M (MD), and entrepreneur and business leader Francis Price ’74, ’75S (MBA), both of whom received the University’s highest award for alumni achievement and service, the Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal.
  • Graduate medical education leader Diane M. Hartmann ’87M (MD), ’91M (Res), the senior associate dean of graduate medical education and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, received the George Eastman Medal.
  • Several faculty members were recognized for their excellence as teachers and mentors to Rochester’s students.

Watch a recording of the 2024 Commencement address

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