Logo: University of Southern California

Commencement Day 2006

1,738 new Viterbi School graduates are ready to face the challenges of 21st century engineering

May 12, 2006 —
Front row of undergraduate students eagerly await their degrees.
Archimedes Plaza in the heart of the Viterbi School of Engineering came alive in a colorful display of pageantry and good cheer on May 12, 2006, as 1,738 ebullient engineering students, their families, friends, and faculty gathered for the School’s 78th annual commencement ceremonies.
In addition to the 480 undergraduate engineering degrees conferred during the morning undergraduate ceremony, 1,254 graduate students were awarded their degrees in an early afternoon ceremony. The Viterbi School’s Distance Education Network (DEN) also awarded a record-breaking 210 advanced degrees, up 23 percent from last year’s totals.
Left to Right, Dean Yannis Yortsos; Lauren Baum who received an MS in medical device and diagnostgic engineering; Judy Baum; and Dwight “Jim” Baum, chair of the Viterbi School Board of Councilors.
“This year is more special, because it is the year in which we are celebrating 100 years of engineering at USC,” said Dean Yannis Yortsos at the morning undergraduate ceremony. “This centennial is also a great milestone in the lives of the young men and women who are graduating. This generation will create wonderful achievements in the future, and this day is for them. All 480 of them.”
The crowd cheered as Archimedes Plaza swelled to near capacity. Students, dressed in the traditional black caps and gowns, filled seats on the platform in front of Vivian Hall. Burgundy salvia and bolero marigolds lit up the plaza, and families brought balloons and bouquets of flowers. Some families had traveled from other parts of the world to watch their sons and daughters graduate.
One of the more than a thousand to receive an MS degree was Lauren Baum, who received her degree in Medical Device and Diagnostic Engineering, while her father Dwight "Jiml" Baum, chair of the Viterbi School Board of Councilors, and his wife Judy looked on.

Keoko Enomoto, left, earned her BS in civil engineering, and Sabrina Grad, right, earned a BS in industrial and systems engineering.
Flag bearers Kelly Anne McLachlan, carrying the heraldic flag, and Sarah Williams, carrying the school banner, led the morning procession of platform participants from Seaver Science Library to the stage.

Those on stage included the chairs of all eight engineering departments and one division, valedictorian Kellen Sick, who received a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering, and university salutatorian Aaron Wong, who received a dual B.S. in biomedical engineering/electrical engineering. Louise Yates, associate dean of Admission and Student Affairs, and Tom Katsouleas, vice provost for Information Services, waited on the sidelines to hand out the diplomas.

“Now is an exciting time to be graduating – or as the word ‘commencement’ suggests – to be beginning,” Yortsos told the graduates. “You have blossomed and now you are about to begin the next phase in your lives, one that you anticipate with excitement, ambition, and boundless optimism.
Hiroshi Nakahara, who received his Ph.D. in materials science, is grooming a future Trojan engineer, his daughter, Akari, who is four years old.
“Whether you are continuing your formal education somewhere, or entering the workforce, you will also begin to learn the considerable extent of your own value,” he said. “And you will learn that society has a great need for what you have to offer — your technical skills, your problem-solving skills, your creativity, your optimism, and your energy.”

A record number of undergraduate students achieved 3.9 grade point averages, Yortsos said, but one stood out above them all. Valedictorian Kellen Sick was recognized for his exemplary academic and extracurricular achievements. A member of USC’s Air Force ROTC unit, a trustee scholar and an undergraduate research scholar, Sick will join the United States Air Force and train to become a pilot, like his father and his older brother.

“Thank you, graduates, for shaping me into the person I am today,” Sick said. “What a ride it has been; it feels great to look back over the accomplishments we are celebrating this morning. The class of 2006 has the spirit that will linger on USC’s campus for some time to come.”

Sick spoke of engineers’ responsibility to use knowledge wisely and effect positive change in the world.
The profession is “incredibly dynamic,” Yortsos added in his remarks. “But rest assured that your background in engineering is the best tool to understand it and make it better.”

Society has learned to transplant hearts, fly spacecraft, and squeeze an entire library onto a single microchip in one short century. Engineers have been the catalysts of many of these changes, Yortsos said.
Dean Yannis Yortsos
In the words of 20th century aerodynamicist Theodore von Karman: “Scientists study the world as it is, engineers create a world that never was.”

Looking ahead, the next century promises even more: the emergence of nanotechnology, quantum computing, and molecular electronics, which promise unprecedented new materials and devices that may one day give scientists the knowledge to cure diseases, Dean Yortsos continued.

“More than likely, the engineers of this century will evolve into a new breed of professionals, with ambidextrous analytical and creative skills,” Yortsos said. “I am confident that we have prepared you well for this transformation.”

After the ceremony, the graduates shifted their tassels from right to left, waved diplomas in the air, and walked back down the aisle toward the back of the plaza. Family members jumped up and down, waved, cried and called out to their sons and daughters, while others stood on chairs and steps to take pictures.
“I’m definitely happy to be finished,” said Nhan Nguyen. “Now I can get some sleep.”
Mellissa Kusaka, decorated in multiple leis and attractively folded dollar bills, earned a BS in biomedical engineering.

“It’s great,” added salutatorian Aaron Wong, who received a dual degree in biomedical and electrical engineering.

But some weren't quite so sure.

“It doesn’t really feel like I’ve graduated yet,” admitted Melissa Kusaka, who earned a BS in biomedical engineering. “I guess it hasn’t sunk in.”
-- Diane Ainsworth