Sunshine, glasses in the shape of the number 2000, and a speaker who drank beer out of a straw while addressing the graduates all marked yesterday's Class Day for The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Yesterday, students, faculty, family and friends gathered to celebrate the end of four years for the Columbia engineers. The ceremony, which lasted approximately two hours, included awards for faculty and students, speeches, and calling each student on stage.
Three members of the faculty received awards during the ceremony. The first was the Kim Award for Faculty involvement given to Raimonodo Betti, who teaches Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and lives on the ninth floor of Hartley Hall with his wife and two children. He said, "It is a great thing, but most of the credit goes to my wife."
The distinguished faculty awards went to John Kender of the Computer Science Department and W. Michael Lai of the Mechanical Engineering Department. Sergio Brecher, vice president of Student Relations at the Columbia Engineering School Alumni Association, presented the awards and said that the honors are given to emphasize the superior quality of teaching that takes place at SEAS. He also said that evaluations of students were taken into consideration in choosing the recipients. In the case of these two teachers "their students lauded them with superlatives."
The Valedictorian, Srikanth Krishnamachari, delivered a speech that focused on the past. He said "it is sometimes the past that must be looked upon to gain insight into the future." He told his own anecdote of living in a suite with his friends and then reflected that "all of you have memories of Columbia past" and that these memories will affect the students in the future. He also told the graduates to continue dreaming for the future.
The guest speaker at yesterday's ceremony was Peter S. Slosberg SEAS '72 M.B.A '74, who founded Pete's Brewing Company, makers of craft beer. He also wrote a book called Beer for Pete's Sake. He spoke about how he began his company in 1985 after having brewed beer as hobby at home for a long time. He and his brewing partner wanted to use someone else's brewery to make their beer, but all around him people were telling him that this was impossible. He told the graduates "do not take no for an answer" because after enough time and fighting he was able to start his business as he wanted.
He also said that his time at Columbia helped him achieve his success. "I left Morningside Heights with the confidence to tackle new challenges." He also said that his SEAS education taught him how to simplify difficult concepts so that anyone can understand them. This. he said, has helped him explain the concept of craft brewery to people.
He left the students with some advice. He told them to carve a niche where they can become experts, to watch their back for people who will try to destroy them, to worry about creating something that will cater to customers, to be confident, and finally "without a doubt, have as much fun as you can."
The reactions to Slosberg's speech were mixed. Dean Kathleen McDermott said "he showed the true Columbia spirit," and Elizabeth Sobczak, mother of graduate Sebastian Sobczak, said "it was an unusual choice [but] he does have a lot to offer a young mind."
Other students thought the speech was too long. "Pete dragged on too much," said graduating senior Federico Tandeter.
Overall, students seemed pleased with the cermony, and their four years at Columbia, and were happy to be graduating.
Sobczak said the ceremony "was good, the weather was beautiful." He said that he was happy to be finished. "When I took my last final that was the best feeling. [Graduation] really hit me last week."
Aizan Radzi said of graduation, "I stayed awake the whole time. [The speakers] were great. I feel happy, of course. Above all, I feel relieved. I am ready to move on to a new chapter in my life."
Azmir Zainuddin also said that after four years of engineering he feels relieved. He said that in the future he will use "the knowledge I acquired here, [but] the real world stuff you have to learn on your own."