Logo: University of Southern California

Hello, Goodbye

At the USC Viterbi undergraduate commencement, students said hello to the future and goodbye to their undergraduate school days
By: Marc Ballon
May 16, 2014 —

Under a bright blue sky, proud parents, loved ones and USC Viterbi School of Engineering graduates gathered together Friday, May 16 to celebrate the 86th Annual Engineering Commencement Ceremony.

USC Viterbi students on graduation day

USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos congratulated the 570 graduates – 30 percent of whom are women – on their many successes. He told them that their majors had prepared them to make a difference in the future.

“Today, as you prepare to enter the ‘real world,’ remember that it grows more complex each day, and so do the challenges and opportunities unfolding before you," Yortsos said.

“You have studied the right disciplines for your times, and you have been equipped with the best toolkit for the 21st century. You are the academic descendants of Leonardo Da Vinci, Marie Curie, Andy Viterbi and Bill Gates.”

USC Viterbi valedictorian Awadi Rathugamage is among those gifted descendants. The aerospace engineering major was selected among a highly competitive field of USC Viterbi students with GPAs of 3.9 and above.

USC Viterbi valedictorian Awadi Rathugamage delivered a well-received speech

Hailing from South Africa, the University Trustee Award winner is the co-founder of the Model United Nations for USC, serving as vice president, treasurer and secretary general throughout his four years with the organization. He has also worked closely with Professor Geoff Spedding in Aerospace Engineering for the last two years, investigating the effects of hydrophilic coating on the drag of water transports.

In 2013, Rathugamage was selected as a fellow for the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute (VSI2). That summer, he participated in the inaugural USC Viterbi Startup Garage, a business accelerator for engineering and other talented business builders.

In his address, Rathugamage applauded his fellow Trojans for their perseverance and intellect.

"As everyone knows, even if they're not willing to admit it, [engineering graduates] are the cream of the crop," he said with a smile.

Keynote speaker Deirdre Hanford followed. The executive vice president of customer engagement for Synopsys encouraged graduates to take risks, understand business, engage globally and to give back.

Keynote Speaker Deirdre Hanford, Synopsys executive VP of customer engagement, encouraged graduates to take risks, understand business, engage globally and to give back

“I am awestruck when I look out at this fine group of graduating Trojans,” Hanford said. “You are future leaders who will make an impact in a global way.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of alumnus Andrew Viterbi’s generous naming gift. Over the past decade, USC Viterbi has set the mark for excellence at USC and grown into an international powerhouse of education and innovation.

Since 2009, for instance, seven USC Viterbi faculty members were selected as TR-35 innovators, “the world’s top innovators under the age of 35.” In that period, no other engineering school in the world had as many faculty members with that distinction.

Additionally, the Princeton Review recently named USC Games — a collaboration between the USC School of Cinematic Arts' Interactive Media Division and USC Viterbi's Department of Computer Science — as the nation’s No. 1 games program for the fifth consecutive year.

“Today, thanks to engineering and technology, the world is being re-created and re-imagined, like never before, with an astonishing speed, at an exponential pace, in front of our very eyes,” Yortsos said. “And it is engineers and visionaries like you that will drive this re-imagination.”

For more photos of the event, see this Flickr album.