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Purdue University President France A. Córdova made these comments during Sunday's (Dec. 20, 2009) winter commencement.

December 20, 2009

Córdova to graduates: 'We can't wait to see what you accomplish'

Graduates, you've crossed the finish line. What a special day this is for the Boilermaker family: 1,318 baccalaureate degrees, 166 master's degrees, 158 PhDs, and 2 Doctor of Pharmacy degrees will be awarded today. You are graduating from one of the most distinguished universities in the country; no, make that, in the world!

You've spent many long hours attending classes -- and a few watching YouTube; you've written slightly more text messages than term papers, but they're shorter, aren't they? You've learned a lot from your professors -- and your favorite reference, Wikipedia. Math? Not a problem with Wolfram Alpha! You've been so busy doing homework. Thank goodness for Facebook, or you'd never have time to keep up with everything going on in your friends' lives! 

You've done so much to prepare for this day: studying, sledding down Slater Hill, attending class, running through the fountain, visiting with your academic adviser, shopping at Target, doing research, Skyping, sleeping, singing "Hail Purdue" with the Paint Crew in Mackey Arena. … Congratulations graduates! You did it all!

I know you'll attribute much of your success to the support of your friends and family. Let's take a moment to let them know how much you appreciate them.

Thank you, parents, family, friends, and teachers. I'm sure someone caught that moment for YouTube.

Not so many years ago, many of you who are undergraduates came to our campus for the first time and met a lot of other freshmen for an orientation called Boiler Gold Rush -- or as it was originally called -- "Corn Cam." It's true. It was your introduction to the traditions of Purdue.

You might have wondered if you were going to get lost amid all the red brick buildings, or if you wore the right clothes or, especially, did you really get into Purdue? If you were like most freshmen, the answers were: yes, yes and yes.

But you made it through your first week, met many new friends and began the millions of moments that would tie together to become your Purdue experience.

During your time at Purdue, you've heard from people who epitomize the meaning of success and leadership. In 2006, Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa told you that America has a chance to reshape the world through globalization. Some of you sat in this hall and heard the Dalai Lama speak about "Cultivating Happiness." And former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright reminded us that competitors in trade can also become partners, and national boundaries are no barrier to engagement.

For generations, Boilermakers have made their marks on our world … bettering it, bettering us … and taking on challenges.  Our own faculty and graduate students have been among them.

In three short years, two faculty members were awarded the World Food Prize: Phil Nelson in 2007, and Gebisa Ejeta in 2009. This is the Nobel Prize of Agriculture, and no organization -- except Purdue -- has ever won this prize more than once. Because of their work, food insecurity will be alleviated for hundreds of millions of people in Africa and around the world.

These Purdue Boilermakers have made a difference,  just as others have before them.

Purdue alumni landed the Eagle on the Moon and an Airbus on the Hudson River. We are proud to call Neil Armstrong and Captain "Sully" Sullenberger Boilermakers.

Boilermakers oversaw construction of the largest cement formation the world had ever seen -- the Hoover Dam -- and invented a cable network to provide live, constant coverage of government proceedings: C-SPAN.

These explorers and innovators were born of the powerful traditions that began at Purdue. Once they sat here, attending their own graduation, and wondering where they would find their true passion.

The solid foundation given them here -- the fundamentals of math, rhetoric, writing, analysis and communication -- are the same tools we have given you.

You have added the specialized knowledge of your own course of study, as well as your own creativity, resourcefulness and determination.

At Purdue, you have had the advantage of world-class teachers and state-of-the-art resources, like those at the Armstrong Hall of Engineering and Discovery Park. Graduate students especially have participated in ground-breaking research at the Birck Nanotechnology Center, the Bindley Bioscience Center and the Cancer Research Center, where we are crossing new frontiers in health and technology.

Many undergraduates have been credentialed as entrepreneurs at Discovery Park. Although only a few years old, this core of research centers is also part of your Purdue experience.

Now your experience as a student is complete, and you are prepared to pursue anything you wish to do. You have all the tools. Now just follow your dream.

Aim high. After all, a Purdue education launched 22 alumni into space. There's no telling how far you can go from here.

Graduates, you are preparing to leave one of great universities of the world, equipped with the learning that only such an institution can provide. But you deserve the credit for achieving this milestone and crossing the finish line.

As you ready to depart today, take some photos with your IPhone or cell phone. Stand for a last time as a student under the Bell Tower. Greet someone on Hello Walk. Have a milkshake at Pappy's. Text your favorite professor and say, 'Thank you' and, 'See you.' These are some of the memories we hope you will carry with you.

Your Purdue experience has made it possible for you to aim higher, achieve more and, of interest to many, earn more. We can't wait to see what you will accomplish. Just wear your old gold and black -- and when you meet another Boilermaker -- say: Go Boilers! Hail Purdue!

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