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"Pride And Passion"

Speakers at USC Viterbi’s master commencement ceremonies encouraged graduates to be persistent, aim high and change the world.
By: Marc Ballon
May 13, 2016 —

Galen Center Keynote Speaker Kenneth Koo (photo/Victor Leung)
They are among the best and the brightest engineering students in the country. Sixty-seven have perfect 4.0 GPAs. Several serve or have served in the U.S. military. They hail from 47 countries around the globe, including Greece, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Japan, China and India.

They are graduates of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s master’s class of 2016. On Friday, May 13, they gathered with family, friends and mentors to celebrate their graduation from one of the country’s finest engineering schools.

To accommodate the large number of students, USC Viterbi, for the first time, held two commencement master’s ceremonies: one in the afternoon at the Galen Center and another in the early evening at the Shrine Auditorium for computer science and informatics graduates.

At both events, USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos noted that graduates were “equipped with the best toolkit for the 21st Century.”

With their ability to leverage technology for useful purposes, including physical, chemical, biological and social phenomena, the dean said the newly minted USC Viterbi master’s graduates would change the world.

Newly minted USC Viterbi master's graduates (photo/Victor Leung)
“It will be you who will help solve the big challenges of our time, whether making solar energy economical, securing cyberspace, engineering better medicines, addressing climate problems, providing access to clean water for all or feeding the hungry,” Yortsos said.

“It will be you who will build new and innovative technologies we cannot even imagine. These giant leaps forward will fuel our economy in this nation and world, creating new jobs, industries and advancing the collective well-being,” he added.

At the Galen center ceremony, Kenneth Koo, group chairman and chief executive officer of Tai Chong Cheang Steamship Co. (H.K.) Ltd., delivered the keynote address. Koo, recipient of the Global Leadership in Engineering Award at the 2014 Viterbi Awards and a member of the USC Viterbi China & East Asia Advisory Board, spoke of his journey from sports journalist to running a family shipping business that transports almost 10 million tons of cargo a year to every corner of the globe.

“Pride and passion,” Koo said, have long inspired him to strive for excellence, whether in reporting or business. He encouraged USC Viterbi graduates to embrace them as guiding principles.

“Make doubly sure that you walk out with pride and passion in all that you’ve achieved, in all that you believe in and in all that you envision,” Koo said. “Believe me, they will be the primary driving force as you reach for the stars in the many, many years ahead of you.”

USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos with winners of the Fleischer Prize in Green Technology. (photo/Victor Leung)
USC Viterbi also awarded the Fleischer Prize in Green Technology, which honors excellence and innovation in environmental engineering. This year's winners include  graduates Chandreyee Manas Das and Sagarika Bhattacharya, along with continuing students Anurag Ghosh, Jomya Lei, Prashanth Morkonda Umachandran and Sandhya Thirukovelluri.

The Shrine Auditorium commencement featured keynote speaker Prem Natarajan, the inaugural Michael Keston Executive Director at the USC Information Sciences Institute. Natarajan, who also holds concurrent appointments as vice dean of engineering and research professor of computer science, told students that they should embrace risk, have integrity and follow their passions.

Perhaps most important is persistence, he said.

“Everything else, with the sole exception of integrity, is just table stakes,” Natarajan said. “The oft-quoted moral of the story of the tortoise and the hare, is that ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ That story is really about the virtue of persistence.”

Natarajan, a former executive vice president and principal scientist at Raytheon BBN Technologies, underscored that by quoting famed American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“The heights by great men, reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they, while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night”

Computer science and informatics keynote speaker Prem Natarajan (photo/Victor Leung)

Dean Yortsos ended his addresses by encouraging graduates to aim high and know that they would always have the support of USC Viterbi.

“Follow your heart and your intuition and reach for the stars!” he said. “And when you reach there, take a moment to look back and you will see a caring and supporting institution that admires you, is proud of you and embraces you for all the wonders you are certain to accomplish!”


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