Commencement 2016: The Highlights

POSTED ON: May 27, 2016

Commencement 2016. Photo by Island Photography/The Cooper Union

Commencement 2016. Photo by Island Photography/The Cooper Union

The 157th graduating class of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art officially became alumni on May 24, 2016. [See the photo gallery.] The weather may have been overcast and drizzling but inside The Great Hall things were bright and upbeat. A packed house cheered the graduating students as they entered to the sound of the bagpipes. Richard Lincer, chairman of the board of trustees, greeted the crowd and introduced the Reverend Jacqueline J. Lewis, senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church who, wearing a gown that evoked Joseph's coat of many colors, delivered the Invocation.

Once everyone had settled down, Bill Mea, the acting president, took the podium to the sounds of The Grateful Dead. After offering some words of wisdom, he became noticeably moved as he concluded with, "It has been my honor to serve you."

Next came the student awards. The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation Award went to Sedrick Chisom A'16. The Harold S. Goldberg Prize went to Harry (Hailey) Kim CE'16, who also graduated Summa Cum Laude. The Toni and David Yarnell Merit Award of Excellence in Architecture was shared by Alice Coverd AR'16 and Max Dowd AR'16. The Toni and David Yarnell Merit Award of Excellence in Art went to Ian Langehough.

The student address was officially delivered by Andy Overton A'16, with assistance by Hunter Mayton A'16. "Hold on to your ideals, crafted as they were in this ideal house, and continue unapologetically, seeking out always more," Andy told the crowd. [Read the full text.]

Then the Presidential Citations were granted. Though not granted for several years, the awards go to alumni who have distinguished themselves in their fields. This year the awards went to John Leeper AR'85, William Morrison A'89 and Jason Banfelder ChE'93 & MChE'96, each of whom said a few words in appreciation.

The commencement address was then delivered by Denise Young Smith, vice president of worldwide human resources at Apple, Inc. "I hope that you each find a path that enables you to do your life’s best work," she told the students, "If you stand in your true self… if you are honest, empathetic, and kind… you will find it. It will find you. And you will be successful as you uniquely define it." [Read the full text.]

After the diplomas were handed out, it was time for the unveiling of the senior class gift, which, with a matching challenge grant from a foundation created by the descendants of Peter Cooper, reached over $14,000.

With one final round of applause the new alumni of The Cooper Union then exited the hall.

  • 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.