Perfect weather, an airy venue, and over 700 smiling graduates came together on Thursday, June 14 to make the 2018 Commencement Ceremony of the College of Engineering a joyous event. Held at The Mann Center in West Fairmount Park amid Drexel leadership, faculty, parents, and friends, the event celebrated graduates and newly minted PhDs as part of Drexel University’s 131st Commencement Ceremonies.
The CoE commencement opened to the unmistakable strains of the Pomp and Circumstance March as the Class of 2018 processed in according to their degree rank, their families and friends seated in risers behind them. Their bright regalia was festooned with sashes and cords signifying individual achievement and extracurricular involvement. Many mortarboards bore messages ranging from the hopeful to the comedic: “Hi Dad,” “The future is a place we make,” “One degree hotter,” “I smile because I have no idea what’s goin’ on,” “You Shall Pass,” and “Last minute, like everything I did for this degree.”
Following an invocation by Rabbi Isabel de Koninck, executive director and campus rabbi, Drexel President John A. Fry took the stage flanked by faculty and honored guests to deliver the Announcement of Assembly.
“Our universe is a better place for your efforts,” President Fry told the graduates. “The world desperately needs you. We will look to you and how you use the knowledge you have worked so hard to gain.”
CoE Interim Dean Giuseppe Palmese delivered welcome remarks, reminding graduates of the highly technological world they are graduating into and the responsibilities that engenders.
“As engineers, we define and help solve society’s greatest challenges, from global sustainability in energy, water, food, and health, to security involving infrastructure resilience, wireless communications, and the Internet of Things. The accelerating pace of innovation and the development of potentially disruptive technologies provide the tools for change. They can all be part of society’s progress. But they pose risks, as well.
“You have the chance to address these technologies and challenges just as they are becoming forces to be reckoned with.” he added. “We are confident that your time at Drexel has prepared you to be a force to be reckoned with, too.”
Three 2018 class members who achieved a perfect grade point average of 4.0 were acknowledged. They are: Paul Kaneelil, Alexander Nhan, and Gabriel Plummer. Summa Cum Laude, Cum laude and Magna Cum Laude graduates were also asked to stand in recognition of their academic achievement.
Class of 2018 remarks were delivered by Alexandria Kapusta, who received her BS/MS in civil engineering; and Gabriel Burks, who was awarded a PhD in materials science and engineering. Kapusta celebrated her parents—her father left Poland at the age of 23 to seek a new life, and her mother began work immediately after high school leaving her own ambitions behind. Kapusta also acknowledged the Drexel Society of Women Engineers for giving her support and encouragement. Burks gave a rousing speech on the difficulties he faced in ascending to the rank of PhD. He inspired classmates with three pieces of advice that kept him moving forward despite the rigor of the program and outside pressures: “Believe in you, be you, and be great.”
As the final speaker, Paul Richards, MEM ’87, a member of the 2001 Space Shuttle Discovery mission to the International Space Station, delighted the audience by reminding them that the keynote speaker at his own CoE graduation was astronaut/alumnus James P. Bagian, ‘73.
“I remember thinking, I’m going to be Drexel’s second astronaut.”
Richards exhorted graduates to be persistent and unyielding in their pursuits, to choose teammates well and to rely on them, and to cultivate a steady and awakened curiosity.
“The true challenge is to be remain undeterred by the sense of impossibility,” he said. “Companies don’t build great things. Governments don’t build great things. People do. I hope one day I’m going to see some of you on Mars.”
The ceremony was rounded out by an individual recognition of graduates and the ever-popular Salute to Parents, Families and Faculty, which was led by Jennifer Gallup, who earned her BS in chemical engineering. A recessional, accompanied by Handel’s Hornpipe, concluded the day.