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Clarkson University grads say goodbye with advice to do what excites them

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POTSDAM — Preparing to make their way into the world while standing beneath a cooperative clear blue sky, more than 700 graduating students stirred with the anticipation, awaiting the bagpipes that would guide them to their final Clarkson University ceremony.

Students from 29 states, 34 countries and 58 New York State counties gathered Saturday afternoon for Clarkson’s 121st Commencement Ceremony in Cheel Arena.

Among them were Alexandria M. Gaspar, 21, Rochester, a mechanical engineering major, and Audrey R. Degnan, 21, Barre, Mass., an environmental engineering major and president of the Civil Engineering Honor Society Chi Epsilon.

Ms. Gaspar will be working at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., a job she landed through a Clarkson University career fair. “I came up to visit after I got my scholarship during my junior year in high school and I really loved it here,” Ms. Gaspar said. She found the school’s modest size and surrounding landscape appealing.

“It wasn’t too big and I got to get out in the north country before my senior year,” Ms. Gaspar said. “It got a little busy this last year, but my brother goes here too, he’s a sophomore, so I’ll be back.”

Ms. Degnan transferred to Clarkson as a sophomore in search of a smaller school with “a good program and the kind of feel I wanted.” She accepted a job in Albany with Barton & Loguidice, D.P.C., an engineering, environmental, planning and landscape architecture firm where she will work in the waste water division.

Ms. Degnan said that while leaving a school that provided a good education and many friends is difficult, those ties will last a lifetime.

“It’s definitely bittersweet, and I’ll definitely keep in touch with the people that I have grown closest with,” Ms. Degnan said. “It will be different being out in the real world, for sure. I think today is about all of us celebrating how far we have come in four years. Whether we have all spent them here or not, we have all come to the same point, so it is pretty exciting.”

Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins said that while graduating students have used their education and degree to open doors, they should “use it to open doors for others also.”

Among the graduating students recognized at the ceremony, Bridges to Prosperity CEO Avery Bang received an an

an honorary doctor of science degree for her “commitment to engineering that benefits humanity, for her dedication to teaching sustainable engineering practices, for her work connecting communities to expanding opportunities and for her leadership that inspires engineers and people in the developing world to join forces and build a better future.”

Addressing the students, Ms. Bang said, “As you embark on this incredible journey beyond Clarkson, I really suggest to you just one thing: don’t question your ability. Don’t get too wrapped up about which grad school to go to or what job or what salary point. Your success is forthcoming, I promise.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Nobel Laureate Steven Chu also received an honorary doctor of science degree. “I learned early in life that failing is actually OK,” he said. “It’s important to fail. And I tell my students that if you live your life without failures, then that’s the biggest failure of your life. You would have never known what you could’ve done.”

Before closing his comments, Mr. Chu rocked swayed to the sounds of The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Mr. Chu smiled as the tune ended. “I’ve never done that before,” he said. “As I stand before you, old and gray, you have your life before you. Time will flash by faster than you can imagine. So do what excites you, what you care about. Do something you really believe in. Above all, enjoy life.”


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