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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer 2008 Commencement Colloquy To Highlight Leadership Challenges for a Sustainable Global Society

April 29, 2008

Rensselaer 2008 Commencement Colloquy To Highlight Leadership Challenges for a Sustainable Global Society

Discussion to feature Shirley Ann Jackson, David Gergen, Shirley M. Tilghman, and Major General Charles Bolden Jr.

Troy, N.Y. — On Friday, May 16, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will host the 2008 President’s Commencement Colloquy, focused on the leadership challenges to maintain a sustainable global society in the midst of extraordinary growth and change. The colloquy will be moderated by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson and will include the Institute’s three Commencement honorary degree recipients — David Gergen, Shirley M. Tilghman, and Major General Charles Bolden Jr., USMC (Ret.).

“We are in an important time of transition in the United States and around the world, facing extraordinary social, economic, and geopolitical challenges and opportunities. How we address a range of issues including energy security, climate change, and food and water supplies will determine the long-term sustainability of the planet,” President Jackson said. “How we — individuals, government, business, academia, and others — respond will shape the future for generations to come. The participants in this 2008 Commencement Colloquy are actively involved in fostering the globally focused leadership essential to meet these challenges.”

The President’s Commencement Colloquy, titled “Leadership for a Sustainable Global Society — Discovery, Innovation, and Citizenship,” will be held on May 16 at 4 p.m. in room 308 of the Darrin Communications Center on the Rensselaer campus. The event will be Webcast live and archived at:  

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., (colloquy moderator) is president of Rensselaer. She has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. Her research and policy focus includes global energy security and the national capacity for innovation, including addressing the “Quiet Crisis” of looming gaps in the science, technology, and engineering workforce and reduced support for basic research. A theoretical physicist, she was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999). She is a member of the executive committee of the Council on Competitiveness and co-chairs its Energy Security, Innovation and Sustainability initiative. She is past president (2004) and chairman of the board (2005) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Philosophical Society. 

David Gergen has spent his professional life immersed in American politics, as an advisor, analyst, author, commentator, and educator. He has worked on both sides of the political aisle as an advisor to four U.S. presidents: as counselor then as special advisor to President Bill Clinton, as director of communications and assistant to President Ronald Reagan, as special counsel to President Gerald Ford, and special assistant to President Richard Nixon. Gergen is currently a professor of public service at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of its Center for Public Leadership.

He also serves as editor-at-large for U.S. News & World Report, and provides political analysis as a regular guest on television, radio, and the Web. Gergen received degrees from both Yale University and the Harvard Law School. He served in the United States Navy, is an active participant in the nonprofit sector, and currently is chairman of the National Selection Committee for the Innovations in American Government awards program.

Shirley M. Tilghman, Ph.D., highly accomplished molecular biologist and educator became the 19th president of Princeton University in 2001— the first woman to hold the position. Prior to becoming president, Tilghman served as a member of the faculty at Princeton for 15 years. During her long career as a researcher she made a number of important scientific breakthroughs related to gene behavior and development, including participating in the cloning of the first mammalian gene. Tilghman is a national advocate for the advancement of women in science and has worked to promote efforts that encourage and enable young scientists to make the most of their early careers. Among other honors, she is a winner of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science and the Society for Developmental Biology’s Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 2007, was named one of America’s best leaders by U.S. News & World Report. Tilghman is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the Royal Society of London.

Major General Charles Bolden Jr., USMC (Ret.) became an astronaut in 1981 after serving 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a pilot during the Vietnam conflict. After his selection by NASA, Bolden participated in four space flights, logging more than 680 hours in space. He served as pilot of both the January 1986 Space Shuttle Columbia mission and the April 1990 Space Shuttle Discovery mission, and as mission commander of the April 1992 Space Shuttle Atlantis mission and the February 1994 Space Shuttle Discovery mission. He retired in 2003 after nearly 35 years on active duty in the Marine Corps, including serving as commanding general of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing in San Diego, Calif. He now shares his knowledge on leadership with students and others around the country.

The sixth annual Rensselaer President’s Commencement Colloquy is being held in conjunction with Rensselaer’s 202nd Commencement on May 17, at which Bolden, Gergen, and Tilghman will receive honorary degrees. Gergen will deliver the Commencement address at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony on the Harkness Field, on the Rensselaer campus in Troy, New York.

Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
Phone: (518) 276-6542


Reeve Hamilton
Director of Media Relations and Communications

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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, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 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.