Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Class of 2022 Encouraged To Change the World

May 21, 2022

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Class of 2022 Encouraged To Change the World

President Shirley Ann Jackson Confers 2,063 Degrees During Her Final Commencement at Rensselaer

During the 216th Commencement Ceremony at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the nation’s oldest technological research university, Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson addressed the Class of 2022. “I’m proud of this university, and proud of the transformation I have been privileged to lead. And I am proud of all of you.”

She urged graduates to be mindful of the lessons that life is still teaching them. “The real mark of how successful you will be in life is how well you respond to your mistakes, and what lessons you take from them,” said President Jackson. “I must impart this wisdom to you. Hardship does not build character. It reveals character.”

During the ceremony, which was held at the East Campus Athletic Village, Rensselaer awarded 119 doctoral degrees, 425 master’s degrees, and 1,519 bachelor’s degrees—to 2,033 students, some of whom earned more than one degree.

“So, as you pursue your goals and fulfill our dreams for you, please do not let ambition drive your ethics. Instead, ethics should drive your ambitions,” said President Jackson.

President Jackson ended her charge to graduates by saying, “All I really want for you, and all I’ve ever wanted for you, for your lives to be good, because that will be my real legacy.” 

During the ceremony, Rensselaer awarded three honorary degrees. President Jackson received an honorary doctor of science degree.

Dr. Francis S. Collins, Acting Science Advisor to President Joe Biden, who was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree, also addressed graduates. Collins implored graduates to “get into the arena” and use their skills to make the world a better place. “Graduates of Rensselaer, we need your help and we are counting on you,” said Collins. “This is our future as a nation, and we need everybody on deck.”

The university also awarded Dr. Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Speaking to graduates, Haass explained that given the education graduates have received, they have a special obligation to get involved in the political sphere.

“Today is called commencement, not finishment,” said Haass. “Be ready to mix your science with social science.” He also warned that if democracy is to survive, it will require “informed, active, citizens.” 

Attendees also heard from two student speakers:

Graduate student speaker Jacqueline F. Pelham, a recipient of a doctoral degree in biochemistry and biophysics, told fellow graduates not to be afraid, but be focused. “Never stop learning because the call is higher than ever before to solve the problems of the world and build a better future.”

Class of 2022 President Chevy Chen, an industrial and management engineering major, commended his fellow graduates for persevering during an unprecedented time. “We navigated online classes, online projects, and online finals, and... we persisted through that challenge, and came out stronger on the other side.”

To learn more about the Class of 2022, read commencement profiles at

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit