Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute To Host Conversation With U.S. Civil Rights Icon, Military Expert, Fortune 500 CEO, and Technology and Philanthropy Pioneer on May 24

May 25, 2013

The Eleventh Annual President’s Commencement Colloquy. (l-r) Patricia Q. Stonesifer, the Honorable John Lewis, President Shirley Ann Jackson, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Ursula M. Burns

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will convene the 11th annual President’s Commencement Colloquy, engaging its 2013 honorary degree recipients—leaders in the government, military, business, philanthropy, nonprofit, and technology sectors—in a discussion titled “Leading Cultural Shifts: Courage, Creativity, Commitment,” to be moderated by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson.

The colloquy participants include the Honorable John Lewis, civil rights leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-GA-5th), Admiral Michael G. Mullen, USN (Ret.), former Chairman of the  Joint Chiefs of Staff  (2007-2011); Ursula M. Burns, Xerox Chairman and CEO; and Patricia Q. Stonesifer, Microsoft and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pioneer. 

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to hear from four global leaders who, by their work, their words, and their example truly have changed the world,” President Jackson said.

The colloquy, open to the Rensselaer community and 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 24. There is no charge; however, attendees are asked to RSVP. Those unable to attend in person may watch the live webstream of the program at :

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:

Congressman John Lewis will deliver the Commencement address, and each of the honorands will address the graduates at the May 25 Commencement, which begins at 8:30 a.m., at the East Campus Athletic Village. For more details on Commencement, visit:

Following is biographical information on the Rensselaer 2013 Commencement Colloquy participants:

The Honorable John R. Lewis, (D-GA-5th), B.A., is a giant of the U.S. civil rights movement. In the 1960s he worked hand-in-hand with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and – at just 23 years old – as an architect of and keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington. Currently a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and as a member of the Democratic Leadership, he has long been considered the “Conscience of the U.S. Congress.” For his decades of leadership, service, and accomplishments, he has been awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the U.S. Medal of Freedom, as well as the John F. Kennedy Library’s “Profile in Courage” lifetime achievement award and numerous other prestigious honors.

Admiral Michael G. Mullen, USN (Ret.), M.S., served as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (2007-2011), advising President George W. Bush, President Obama, and two Secretaries of Defense.  He led the military during a critical period of transition, overseeing the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq and the development of a new military strategy for Afghanistan.  He advocated for the rapid development and fielding of innovative technologies, championed emerging and enduring international partnerships, and advanced new methods for combating terrorism.  As Joint Chiefs Chairman, he spearheaded the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  He commanded at every level in the U.S. Navy, including as its highest ranking officer, the 28th Chief of Naval Operations (2005-2007).  He remains a staunch advocate for veterans and their families.

Ursula M. Burns, M.S., is Chairman and CEO of Xerox, the world’s leading business process and document management company. Shortly after being named CEO in 2009, she made the largest acquisition in the company’s history, catapulting its presence in the business services market and extending its reach into diverse areas of business process and IT outsourcing. She is the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. She also is vice chair of the President’s Export Council, appointed by President Obama in 2010; serves on the Boards of American Express and Exxon Mobil; is a founding board director of Change the Equation, focused on improving the U.S. education system in science, technology, engineering and math; and provides leadership counsel to other community, educational, and nonprofit organizations.

Patricia Q. Stonesifer, B.A., is a longtime, celebrated leader in the technology, foundation, and nonprofit arenas. After two decades working in the technology sector, culminating as Senior VP of Microsoft’s Interactive Media Division, she became the founding CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2010 she was appointed by President Obama to chair the White House Council on Community Solutions, and serves on the Smithsonian Board of Regents. She is President and CEO of Martha’s Table, a Washington, D.C. non-profit organization focused on providing nutrition, education, and other supports to help break the cycle of poverty. She also remains engaged with a range of corporate boards, education initiatives, and service-related organizations, with a focus on reducing inequities.

Moderated by: The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President of Rensselaer since 1999, she has led an extraordinary transformation of the Institute. She has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. A theoretical physicist, she was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999) and serves on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The Royal Academy of Engineering and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering are among several prestigious professional societies, policy organizations, and corporate boards of which she is a member. Her research and policy focus includes energy security and the national capacity for innovation, including the “Quiet Crisis” of looming gaps in the science, technology, and engineering workforce and reduced support for basic research.

Press Contact Michael Mullaney
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