Wear Sunscreen

Poster from Lippencott's Magazine, July, 1896

Poster from Lippincott’s Magazine, July, 1896

Last weekend, we attended two graduations and heard more than a few commencement speeches. Many were quite good, while some I have already forgotten. This post will condense the good one and dispense with the rest, thereby saving you the reader much personal time and a sore butt. Most commencement chairs were inevitably uncomfortable and their discomfort was most noticeable during the lulls in the ceremonies.

First up was David Leonhardt, a columnist for the New York Times and editor of the column, The Up Shot. He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Niagara University. He said that whenever he was eating dinner, either with just his wife or with close friends, he was the only one at the table without a graduate degree. He thanked Niagara for remedying that. Of all the speakers, he was the only one with whom I had some familiarity with. I like The Up Shot, with its clever infographics. The gist of his speech seemed to me to be selling those who have already purchased. He was selling the value of a college education to a room full of graduates. He reeled off facts and numbers that asserted the value of a college degree for everything from finances to longevity. His speech was less stirring, rather more affirming, telling these newly minted graduates that they had done the right thing.

The main commencement speaker at the University of Rochester was the educator, Deborah Bial. IMHO, she was the best speaker of the weekend. She launched her speech by taking a selfie of the university president and herself. Her theme was along the lines of to your own self be true. In this social media era, where self-branding is routine, she argued to the graduating class of 2015 that they should strive to try to keep it real. She pulled no punches when she offered up NBC’s Brian Williams and the Yankee’s A-Rod as poster children of how not to manage your brand.

The final speaker that I’ll mention is Richard Rashid. He founded Microsoft Research an adjunct to the Microsoft. He gave up a secure and prosperous position to head research for what was then a company that had only recently just moved out of the garage. You could say that the rest is history, but his put was summed up with the analogy of the closest parking space. When parking, it is always easier to take the first available spot, but when you drive right up to the front door there is frequently a better spot there. He explained that while this is not always true, it is true more often than you would think, because so few people try for that primo parking spot.

To the graduating class of 2015, don’t forget to wear sunscreen.

Rene’s Graduation

Rene and Alice All Robed-Up

Rene and Alice All Robed-Up

Meliora! Sunday, was another graduation day. This time it was Rene’s day. He graduated From the University of Rochester, with a Masters of Mechanical Engineering. The setup for his graduation was similar to Dave’s. The weather was identically perfect. The people here keep speaking of snow at graduation, but I’ve never seen it. One important difference between Rene’s and Dave’s graduations is that as a member of the faculty, Alice got to present Rene his diploma. When it was announced that Alice, his mother, would be presenting Rene his diploma, the crowd gave them a big “Ah.” 

Alice and Rene at the Kodak Center

Alice and Rene at the Kodak Center

Dottie and Dave

Dottie Welch Retires, But Her Legacy Lives On

Dottie Welch Retires, But Her Legacy Lives On

The University of Rochester produces a series of lovely looking, glossy magazines. The main publication, the Rochester Review, comes out every other month and reports news university wide. The engineering school also produces a magazine, the Full Spectrum, which appears every quarter. All the while that Dave was attending school at Rochester, both Anne and I would pour over each new issue hoping to catch a glimpse of or a reference to David. Alas, it was to no avail, he never appeared in either magazine. He worked hard, but also kept his head down, which was bad for self publicity purposes. Flash forward three years after Dave graduated from Rochester and there he is, near the center of a scrum about Dottie Welch, the Biomedical Engineering Department’s Undergraduate Coordinator. This photo, along with the Full Spectrum announcement of Ms. Welch’s retirement appeared in the latest issue. I’ve also include another photo I took at Dave’s commencement.  This picture includes, Anne, Dave, Dottie and Dave’s advisor, whose name escapes me. Except that she was so instrumental in getting his career going. Anne is apparently wearing her Queen Mum crown.

David and His Three Moms

David and His Three Moms

David Graduates

The weather was picture perfect. Rochester is a city that is not really know for its warm and sunny weather, but Sunday was a picture perfect day. It was a beautiful day for a commencement.

Anne and I attended Dave’s commencement ceremony on Sunday. It turns out, commencement at the University of Rochester is an all day affair. This was the university’s 160th commencement. The first one lasted three days.

There were lots of speakers at the ceremony. Two of them come to mind. The first was a women, who had been one of the thirteen Federal Reserve Bankers. She is now engaged in community education. Her gaffe was to congratulate the students on their retirement instead of their graduation. The second memorable speaker actually spoke twice, first at the main ceremony and then again at the engineering ceremony. He was Ed Hajim, for whom the school of engineering is named. His speech had four points that are neatly summarized here:

  • Find something to do
  • Find someone to share it with
  • Find something you believe in
  • Find something for yourself

The question was asked of Anne and I are we satisfied with the University of Rochester? Our answer is a whole hearted yes. Dave could have gone to the University of Missouri, at Rolla and also obtained an engineering degree, at considerably less expense, but the quality of his education at Rochester is so self evident in the eyes of his parents that all monetary arguments seem to miss the point.

Order of the Engineer

After crash landing on Planet Rochester, Friday night, Anne and I had recovered by Saturday morning. We picked Dave up at his apartment and decamped to the Mount Hope Diner, for breakfast. Even though, I tried to commit seppuku with my razor, the cat wouldn’t take its medicine and we got lost, several times, we still made breakfast and U of R’s Order of the Engineer ceremony, on time.

In between breakfast and the ceremony, Dave gave us a brief tour through Rochester’s two year old Biomedical Engineering building. It is a very impressive facility. The various senior project presentations were prominently displayed about it. Dave, pictured below, is showing the footwear portion of his senior project team’s product.

Saturday’s main event was the Order of the Engineer ring ceremony. This ceremony was open to all graduating engineers and any of their parents that are also engineers. Being an engineer in good standing at a certain Fortune 100 corporation, I elected to participate too. There were eighty some student participants plus more than a few of their parents. After some preamble, history and explanation, Dave, the rest of the student and parent inductees and myself stood to take this pledge.  We all repeated the parts in bold.

I am an Engineer. In my profession I take deep pride. To it, I owe solemn obligations.

Since the Stone Age, human progress has been spurred by the engineering genius. Engineers have made usable nature’s vast resources of material and energy for Humanity’s benefit. Engineers have vitalized and turned to practical use the principles of science and the means of technology. Were it not for this heritage of accumulated experience, my efforts would be feeble.

As an Engineer, I pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect, and to uphld devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of Earth’s precious wealth.

As an Engineer, I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation. For the public good. In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give the utmost.

After the ceremony I got to meet the other three members of Dave’s senior project design team in person. Pictured above are David, Hannah, Shekhar and Nicole. In their YouTube video, Dave played the patient, Hannah played the operator, Shekhar was the narrator and Nicole was the camera person. Dave’s primary engineering participation was in doing the project’s software development.

As an aside and just to make Annie jealous, Nicole is a second cousin to Lady Gaga. Her dad is her Godfather. It is a small world after all.  That makes it only easier for a pinky ring to rule it all.

Rochester Or Bust

On Friday, Anne and I drove from Saint Louis to Rochester, New York.  It was an epic drive of 820 miles, but we made it.  The reason for this journey is that this weekend David graduates from the University of Rochester.

All-in-all, we made good time.  It only took us thirteen and a half hours, which was the Google Maps estimate.  We only stopped five times and each time only briefly.

Normally when we come to Rochester we also see our friends and former Saint Louis residents, Alice and Chris and Bob and Noreen, but due to poor planning on our part all four of them have flown the coop.  Alice and Chris are attending a relative’s graduation down in Texas.  We will get to see them, but not until Sunday night. 

Bob and Noreen are traveling to Missouri this weekend.  They have a timeshare place down in Branson, Missouri.  By happenstance we our trading places with them this weekend.  We are staying at their place and they are staying at ours.  As near as we can tell, we passed each other somewhere in Ohio.  We hope to hook up with them in person after we return home.

Anne and I each tried to take some interesting photos of the cityscapes and countryside as we drove all day.  It is hard to get the shot when you are cruising along at sixty plus miles per hour.  The one haf decent shot we got was probably the first picture taken.  In the middle of Illinois, at Effingham is a gigantic cross.  The picture doesn’t do justice to the size of this monument, but it looks nice in the early morning light.

According to their website:

The Cross Foundation completed a 198 foot Cross at the intersection of Interstates 57 & 70 in Effingham, Illinois. The site is intended to serve as a beacon of hope to the 50,000 travelers estimated to pass the site each day. The Cross Foundation is dedicated to building both faith and family on an ecumenical basis.

Dave emailed us the preceding YouTube video about his senior project.  The video explains it much better than I ever could.  Dave is the guy that is modeling the device.  It is a much more sophisticated project than I expected.