The Indiana University class of 2016: poised to enliven and strengthen our world

Graduate Commencement Ceremony
Mellencamp Pavilion
IU Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana

Friday, May 06, 2016


Trustees, Provost Robel, Mr. Maurer, honored guests, colleagues, and members of the Class of 2016:

Just before he became President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University in New York City. In his inaugural address at Columbia in 1948, Eisenhower spoke about the major role universities play as “fruitful agent(s) in the promotion of human knowledge and human welfare.”1

In Eisenhower’s words: “To assign the university the mission of ever strengthening the foundations of our culture is to ennoble the institution and confirm the vital importance of its service.”2

Eisenhower went on to say that one of the major ways universities serve society and strengthen the foundations of our culture is by training “a graduate body of men and women, who, each in his or her own field, shall advance frontiers of knowledge and use the techniques of science (and all that they have learned) in the service of humanity.”3

Today, as we gather to observe the time-honored ceremony of commencement, we celebrate not only your accomplishments in earning advanced degrees, but also the fact that the education you have received at Indiana University has given you the knowledge, values, and habits of mind that will enable you to contribute and thrive in the world you will inherit.

The education you have earned here will allow you to continue to contribute in immensely important transformative and innovative ways to the prosperity and progress of this nation and the world.

It will enable you, as Eisenhower suggested, to help strengthen the foundations of our culture, to promote human welfare, and to use what you have learned in the service of humanity.

The fruits of graduate education

The need for graduates like you with advanced degrees is greater today than ever.

A recent report by the Commission on the Future of Graduate Education maintained that competitiveness in the global economy hinges on the ability to produce sufficient numbers of graduate-degree holders—people with the advanced knowledge and critical-thinking abilities to devise solutions to grand challenges such as energy independence, affordable health care, climate change and other issues. “One of our greatest resources is …human talent,” the report stated, “and we must invest in educating more (people) at the graduate level to ensure our capacity to innovate and to secure our intellectual leadership into the future.”4

Devising solutions to the grand challenges our society faces—challenges whose solutions have the potential to resolve or mitigate the most difficult and vexing problems of humanity or to massively advance a discipline—is one of the most fundamental ways universities can contribute to society. Increasingly, complex challenges such as these can only be addressed by large, diverse teams of the best researchers.

Many of you, during your time at Indiana University, have worked as part of such teams, and have already made valuable contributions that will be of lasting value to the prosperity and well-being of society.

A thriving research university that undergirds the State’s stability and prosperity

Through the discoveries, new knowledge, and understanding they have generated, members of the Indiana University community have made invaluable contributions to the prosperity and well-being of the state of Indiana for nearly 200 years.

Indiana’s pioneer leaders had the wisdom to recognize that an outstanding education of the kind Indiana University delivers would be essential to the state’s development and prosperity. Thus, they called for the establishment of a state university in the state’s first constitution. Indiana University was founded on January 20th, 1820, and over the last two centuries, has grown to become one of the world’s leading modern research universities. For nearly 200 years, it has fueled an engine of prosperity for Indiana and the nation, led the state’s international engagement, sparked discoveries that have helped solve the world’s problems, and illuminated the boundless possibilities of human imagination and creativity.

Leaders like David Starr Jordan, IU’s seventh president from 1884 to 1891, who understood the value of the university in the increasingly modern American society, revised the university’s curriculum and promoted the wonders of the biological and physical sciences. In an era when higher education was experiencing rapid growth nationwide, and when greater emphasis was being placed on research, IU’s 10th and longest-serving president from 1902 to 1937, William Lowe Bryan, established the Graduate School, a number of the professional schools, and presided over the transformation of Indiana University into a modern research university.

Since that time, IU research and scholarship have drawn widespread and world-wide acclaim, and discoveries and inventions by its outstanding faculty members—and by graduate students like you—have fueled innovation that has helped to transform and diversify Indiana’s economy and profoundly advanced the boundaries of knowledge.

Extending yourselves to every-higher limits

Regardless of your discipline, you have all experienced the deep sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and achievement—that sense of exhilaration—that comes from extending yourselves to ever-higher limits in new and uncharted areas and making new and revolutionary contributions to human knowledge.

Some of you have been vital partners in the research enterprise at Indiana University, and many of you, I am certain, will continue to make lasting and memorable contributions through research and scholarship.

Others of you have focused with great intellectual intensity and rigor on mastering the advanced training in your professional field with an education of the highest quality— one that will enable you to make contributions of lasting value to the prosperity and well-being of society.

All of you are now part of a select group whose members have made the serious and considerable investment of personal and financial resources required to earn an advanced degree. You now stand ready to use the knowledge and skills you have acquired to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Yours will be the classrooms, the clinics, and the laboratories of the future. And yours, the arts, ideas, and industries of a new emerging world where success is measured in how well you transform knowledge and ideas into helping people.

The class of 2016: joining traditions of educational excellence

The more than 2,300 students who receive advanced degrees from IU Bloomington today are outstanding examples of the fruits of graduate education.

They are also among a record number of nearly 20,800 students who are graduating from Indiana University campuses around the state this week.

They are also part of the largest graduating class in the history of the Bloomington campus, whose members come from 88 different countries, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and from 87 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

Michael Maurer, the distinguished alumnus who received an honorary doctorate today is an outstanding example of the ways in which Indiana University graduate and professional degree holders have made vital and lasting contributions that have enhanced all of our lives.

Just as Mr. Maurer recalls the faculty members who had profound influences on him during his time at IU, each of you will recall the professors who have become your mentors and guides: professors who have passed along their own intense and exciting training; professors who responded with enthusiasm and interest to your ideas and provided direction when you needed it.

They have taught and guided you, cajoled and sometimes even prodded, celebrated and encouraged—all with the knowledge that you, their students, are the next generation who will do the same.

“A life which is fruitful and inherently significant”

As graduates of Indiana University, you have been preparing for years to become the next generation to discover, to understand, and to apply all that you have learned.

One of the leading educational theorists of the 20th century, philosopher John Dewey, once wrote: “education is not a means to living, but is identical with the operation of living a life which is fruitful and inherently significant…”5

As you continue the great adventure of creation, invention, and discovery in your own lives, may you see in your work and in your lives all that is fruitful and inherently significant.


Source notes

  1. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Inaugural Address as President of Columbia University, delivered October 12, 1948.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Council of Graduate Schools and Educational Testing Service. (2010). The Path Forward:  The Future of Graduate Education in the United States. Report from the Commission on the Future of Graduate Education in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
  5. John, Dewey, Democracy and Education, (the MacMillan Company, 1916), 239.