Transylvania sent 263 graduates from the class of 2011 into the world on May 28, the most in the school's 231-year history, during the first commencement ceremony under President R. Owen Williams, who completed his first academic year at the helm.
Transylvania trustee Aris Candris '73, president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company and uncle of graduating senior Stamatios Kandris, gave the commencement address from the steps of Old Morrison. Drawing from his experience in nuclear power and environmental issues, he urged graduates to work hard and take risks while making sure to find a vocation that will fulfill them and bring them happiness.
"We have an energy crisis on our hands, and global warming is a very real issue," Candris said. "And if we don't do something about it now, we will place future generations at risk. As a society and as a planet, we must get past short-term thinking, and start long-term planning....Every day that I go to work, I sincerely believe that I'm playing a part in leaving this earth better than I found it."
Candris completed his Transylvania B.A. in three years with three majors-mathematics, physics, and pre-engineering-and earned an M.S. and a Ph.D., both in nuclear engineering, at Carnegie Mellon University. His 36-year career with Westinghouse has included increasingly responsible positions on both the engineering and management sides of the company, beginning in 1975 with his first role as a senior engineer in the former advanced reactor division.
He reminded the students of the value of their liberal arts educations, regardless of the fields they enter as professionals. As an example, he cited the issue of public perception versus reality in the wake of the March 11 tsumami and earthquake in Japan. The state of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been featured prominently in the world media, but Candris said the reality is not as grim as has been portrayed.
"That's because historically, the nuclear energy industry has done a less-than-adequate job of educating the public as to the realities of nuclear energy," he said. "We have not been good communicators. And that's too bad, because we have an excellent story to tell. Although many people can master the technical skills of a job, few also have the communication skills needed to present ideas clearly and concisely. This ability will be invaluable to you in the coming years."
Graduating senior Virginia Hamilton, a writing, rhetoric, and communication major and psychology minor from Bardstown, Ky., was the student speaker. She recalled Scott Turow, whose book Ultimate Punishment she and her classmates were assigned the summer before their first year at Transylvania for the annual First Engagements reading program.
"Four years ago, we each read the words of Scott Turow and maybe didn't pick up on the lifelong insights he buries beneath the lawful jargon," Hamilton said. "Now, we leave with more than his explanation of the Illinois state laws on capital punishment. We leave with a new outlook on our active futures. And now, my sentiment for you, in conjunction with Turow's words and Transylvania's mission, is this: Don't just be an optimist; be a leader. And don't just be a leader; be a pioneer now, and in the future. Because if we fail to maximize on the potential that Transylvania University has instilled in each one of us, now that would be the ultimate punishment."
|For more scenes from graduation, visit our commencement photo gallery.|