University of Rochester

Graduates Gain Advice from the Heart at University of Rochester Commencement

May 18, 2008

From the Xerox CEO, alumni in law and finance, and their own president, University of Rochester graduates were reminded to follow their dreams, but not alone.

"Our human connections—with families and partners and friends—are the most important connections any of us will ever make," said Xerox Corp. CEO and Chairman Anne Mulcahy in her address at the 158th commencement ceremony for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering on Sunday. "At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not getting one more promotion, not closing one more deal. These are all transitory victories."

A few hours later at the University's Eastman School of Music commencement, 220 graduates receiving bachelor's and master's degrees heard composer and veteran critic Greg Sandow's suggestions for drawing new audiences to classical music. (For more information on Sandow's background and role at Eastman, go to

Mulcahy's remarks to the 1,171 graduates at the College and several thousand of their family members and friends acknowledged the close relationship between the University and two famed Xerox leaders, the late Joseph C. Wilson and David Kearns. Both graduated from the University and were former University board chairmen. In a surprise to the crowd, Mulcahy also announced a $1 million gift to the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The audience applauded in appreciation.

"You hate the status quo," said Mulcachy of the University's efforts in education and research, "and are always searching for new initiatives, new breakthroughs and new discoveries—and always in the service of humanity." At the ceremony on the Eastman Quadrangle, she received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Remarks from University President Joel Seligman resonated with Mulcahy's message when he advised graduates: "Seek harmony in your lives. I am convinced that the most successful individuals are those with mastery of a specific field and the talent to balance a life that involves family and friends, community, and an active and inquisitive mind."

(For more information about seven commencement ceremonies that took place at the University of Rochester May 16 to 18, see

The encouraging and congratulatory tone at the College ceremony fit well with the awards bestowed. The University's Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching was given to Professor of Chemistry Thomas R. Krugh, who has taught at Rochester for 38 years.

Arthur R. Miller, an alumnus and noted legal scholar, said he was "deeply touched" to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. "When I came here," he told the graduates, "I was a kid from Brooklyn, Brighton Beach, an ethnic ghetto. I was thrown together with people from all walks of life." More than 50 years later, after decades as a professor, author, and television commentator, he said, "My field of vision has been made much wider by the University of Rochester."

G. Robert Witmer Jr., senior counsel at Nixon Peabody LLP and longtime University trustee and retiring board chairman, received the Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal—the highest alumni award given by the University. "Look outside yourself," he told the graduates. He encouraged them to extend themselves to others, and to remember the value of supporting their alma mater and the lasting role of universities in society.

Witmer's successor as chairman of the Board of Trustees, Edmund "Ed" Hajim, welcomed the graduates with spirited congratulations as well as a short "formula" to follow from the famous Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz. "Find something to do; find someone to love; find something to believe in; and find something to look forward to."

From the podium, Bobby Sanborn, who was president of the Senior Class Council and is headed to South Dakota for Teach for America, focused his comments on the times spent outside class, the "dances, dinners . . . and, of course, lots of parties. When you look at your diploma, think of the moments and people who shaped who you are today," he said.

As the program neared its end, some graduates let loose with yellow-and-white beach balls and batted them around as the University of Rochester Wind Symphony played a Sousa march. Even a few in the platform party followed the graduates' lead in doing "the Wave," raising their arms and rising from their chairs.

The number of degrees conferred by the University of Rochester during commencement ceremonies this weekend and on June 8 for the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration ceremony totals 2,553 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.