Rensselaer To Host Colloquy With Leaders From Each Branch of the U.S. Government Along With Pioneers in the Business and Academic Sectors, May 25

2012 Commencement Colloquy


Contact: Media Relations

May 16, 2012

Rensselaer To Host Colloquy With Leaders From Each Branch of the U.S. Government Along With Pioneers in the Business and Academic Sectors, May 25

Tenth Annual Commencement Colloquy To Focus on “Honoring Tradition, Responding to a Changing World”

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will convene the 10th annual President’s Commencement Colloquy, engaging its 2012 honorary degree recipients—leaders from each branch of the U.S. government, along with pioneers in the business and academic sectors—in a discussion titled “Honoring Tradition, Responding to a Changing World,” moderated by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson.

The colloquy participants include Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia; U.S. Secretary of Energy and 1997 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics, Dr. Steven Chu; former U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon; artificial intelligence pioneer and renowned computer scientist Dr. Edward A. Feigenbaum; and digital camera inventor and pioneer in digital imaging, U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipient, and Rensselaer alumnus Steven J. Sasson ’72.

“At Rensselaer we ask, ‘Why not change the world?’ On this, the 10th anniversary of the President’s Commencement Colloquy, we are honored to be joined by an extraordinary array of leaders who have done just that. Each has shaped and changed our world. All have interesting stories to tell and life lessons to share,” said Rensselaer President Jackson.

The colloquy, open to the Rensselaer community and to the general public, will be held in the Concert Hall of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, on the Rensselaer campus, beginning at 3:30 p.m., on Friday, May 25.

In advance of the colloquy, the public is invited to submit questions for the panel. For more information, to submit a question, and/or to RSVP for the President’s Commencement Colloquy, go to:

Former congressman Bart Gordon will deliver the Commencement address, and each of the honorands will address the graduates at the May 26 Commencement, which begins at 8:30 a.m., at the East Campus Athletic Village. For more details on Commencement, go to

Following is brief biographical information on each of the Rensselaer 2012 honorary degree recipients:

The Honorable Antonin Scalia, J.D., Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States.He is the longest-sitting member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a self-described “originalist,” interpreting the U.S. Constitution by beginning with the text, and giving that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted. The Associate Justice was nominated by President Reagan and confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in 1986. His experience spans the private, academic, and public sectors; he practiced law in Cleveland, Ohio, taught law at the Universities of Virginia and Chicago, and applied the law, working in the Administrations of Presidents Nixon (Office of Telecommunications Policy) and Ford (U.S. Department of Justice), before being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Reagan in 1982.

The Honorable Steven Chu, Ph.D., United States Secretary of Energy, distinguished scientist and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997). Charged with implementing key components of President Obama’s energy agenda since 2009, he has devoted his recent scientific career to the search for new solutions to energy challenges and stopping global climate change. Previously he was Director of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Professor of Physics and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and he held positions at Stanford University and AT&T Bell Laboratories. The holder of 10 patents and author of nearly 250 published scientific and technical papers, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and numerous other civic and professional organizations.

The Honorable Bart J. Gordon, J.D., Former Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology. He is a leader in U.S. science, technology, energy, and health policy, and champion of the America COMPETES Act, which authorizes federal investments in innovation and innovators. Currently a partner at K&L Gates LLP, Congressman Gordon served for 26 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, from Tennessee. As Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, he built bipartisan support for enactment of the America COMPETES Act, helped craft the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, and was a leading proponent of America’s space program, and of enhancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

Edward A. Feigenbaum, Ph.D., pioneer in artificial intelligence and renowned computer scientist. He is a recipient (1994) of the “Nobel Prize of computing,” the ACM Turing Award of the Association for Computing Machinery, for pioneering the design and construction of large-scale artificial intelligence (AI) systems, demonstrating the practical importance and potential commercial impact of artificial intelligence technology. Dr. Feigenbaum is the Kumagai Professor of Computer Science Emeritus at Stanford University. He was Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force (1994-97). He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Intelligent Systems/Artificial Intelligence Hall of Fame of the IEEE, and the Hall of Fellows of the Computer History Museum. In his honor, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence awards the Feigenbaum Prize for outstanding AI research advances made by using experimental methods of computer science.

Steven J. Sasson ’72, M.S. ’73, inventor of the digital camera and related imaging technologies that have transformed the industry and the world. An electrical engineer, now retired from the Eastman Kodak Company, he revolutionized the way images are captured, stored, and shared. Sasson was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2010), the highest honor for technological achievement bestowed by the President of the United States. In 2011 he was inducted in the Inventors Hall of Fame. He holds more than 10 key digital imaging patents.  He was awarded the 2011 Davies Medal, the highest honor awarded to an alumnus of the Rensselaer School of Engineering.


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