seal  Purdue News

August 9, 2003

President Jischke encourages Purdue graduates to serve others

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue President Martin C. Jischke today (Saturday, 8/9) told more than 1,200 new graduates assembled in the Elliott Hall of Music that their mission is to follow the dreams their education makes possible and to give back to the community.

To illustrate his message, Jischke referred to comedian Bob Hope, who recently died two months after celebrating his 100th birthday. Jischke told graduates that Hope performed in Elliott Hall at least six times and that he also delivered many commencement addresses. According to Jischke, Hope called education "the most valuable commodity a young person can strive for."

Jischke said Hope never earned a college diploma, yet received numerous honorary degrees and that he was a big believer in sharing:

"Bob Hope said, 'If you haven't got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.' It is our hope that you will use this great gift of education not only to accomplish success in your own lives, but to advance the quality of life for other people."

Jischke also noted that Purdue is celebrating the 100th anniversary of flight in 2003. He quoted accomplished aviator Amelia Earhart, who mentored women at Purdue and was a firm advocate of charitable work:

"'No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.'"

Jischke also quoted accomplished scientist George Washington Carver, who was born a slave and died leaving a legacy:

"'No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through.'"

Jischke then recalled how Purdue alumnus and acclaimed basketball coach John Wooden also believed in service to others:

"'You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

Jischke concluded by asking the graduates to begin using their education to create their own legacies.

"As you leave Elliott Hall today, you are taking Purdue University with you," Jischke said. "Bob Hope, in one of his commencement talks, spoke to the challenges you will face. He said, 'There's never been a time in our history where young men and women like you were better prepared to lead us into the 21st century. We're proud of you because you're going to start carrying the torch of freedom and knowledge. And, someday, you'll have to pass that torch on to others. When you do, it should be burning stronger and brighter. That's the job that's ahead of all of you.'"

Anna Pao Sohmen, who is currently involved with several companies and community projects throughout China and is a business and political leader and a patron of the arts, was presented with an honorary doctorate of letters from the School of Liberal Arts. Sohmen, of Hong Kong, graduated from Purdue with a bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1966 and was a member of University Choir.

Sarah E. Pence of Hope, Ind., provided the student response. She earned a bachelor's degree from the School of Agriculture.

This was the 190th commencement ceremony at Purdue. The university has been recognizing summer graduates at the West Lafayette campus every year since 1984.

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

Sources: John Norberg, senior writer, (765) 496-7783,

Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Related releases:
Purdue alumna to receive honorary degree
Full text of President Martin C. Jischke's speech

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