One Hundred and Fifty Third Commencement

May 21, 2012

Cooper Union Stock Photo Walter S. Isaacson Walter S. Isaacson Cooper Union Stock Photo Benjamin Strauss

Walter S. Isaacson, acclaimed biographer of Steve Jobs, gave the address at The Cooper Union’s One Hundred and Fifty Third Commencement Ceremony on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Scroll down to see a video of the entire speech.

Isaacson told the graduates in art, architecture and engineering that Cooper is "not only a place [Jobs] would love, it’s a type of place he would have founded and it means a lot to me to be in such a magical place and to be so honored with such a great degree." This was because, Isaacson explained, Jobs understood and celebrated "the connection between art and technology, between beauty and engineering, between design and the sciences," in the same way a place like Cooper Union celebrates and honors such connections. Jobs and others who see that intersection are “able to contribute more to the world than anyone else.”

Isaacson cautioned the graduates that the advice “follow your passion” is not always great advice. “It’s all about taking your passions and putting them into service for something larger,” said Isaacson, who currently serves as president of The Aspen Institute.  “It isn’t all about you … It’s important to know what your passions are and to put them to a higher purpose.” Video of the speech is below, and a transcript is also available.

Student commencement speaker Benjamin Strauss drew applause when he said,  “Our educational experience is different. It is one which money could never buy.” Every Cooper undergraduate receives a merit-based, full-tuition scholarship.  Strauss said, “We replace payments with contributions of intellect … We pay ours forward in the form of responsibilities to society … That includes financially supporting the institution that made us who we are.”  Strauss is an engineering graduate who works as an EMT and has invented a way of detecting silent heart attacks. A video and a transcript of his speech are available.

President Jamshed Bharucha congratulated the Class of 2012 in his remarks:

"You have left your imprint on our community, and will go on to leave your imprint on the world. You have developed life-long relationships at Cooper. We will all be rooting for you. Stay in touch. Let us know how you’re doing. Cooper is a family, and you are always welcome home."

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.