May 23, 2020
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and others address graduates
During the 214th Commencement Ceremony hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the nation’s first technological university, United States Senator Charles Ellis “Chuck” Schumer of New York reminded graduates that “even in times of difficulty, there are always opportunities.”
During the ceremony, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rensselaer awarded a total of 2,099 degrees — 124 doctoral degrees, 407 master’s degrees, and 1,568 bachelor’s degrees — to 2,074 students, some of whom earned multiple degrees. One student even earned three degrees.
Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson presided over the ceremony. She congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments and encouraged them to use their talents and creativity to help others in need, especially during the ongoing crisis.
“Using one’s talents for the benefit of others is truly where happiness lies,” she said. “This pandemic will help you discover your own strength and resilience. Remember that we all need you, and we are counting on you to carry on the great work of making the world a better place.”
Schumer encouraged graduates to find the silver lining in the current situation, and to remember that their Rensselaer education has empowered them to address the current and future challenges.
“It is natural to fear the unknown, but don’t let the harshness of this current moment prevent you from seizing opportunities,” he said. “When the worst is over, we’ll need your help to rebuild our country even stronger than it was before.”
Those who tuned in to the virtual ceremony also heard from two student speakers.
Graduate student speaker Alexis Marie Ziemba, a recipient of a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering, praised the graduates for the sacrifices they have made for the sake of creating new knowledge.
“We have cultivated a set of skills that will help us to develop new therapeutics, improve our energy technology, make better business decisions, and so much more,” she said. “I encourage you all to think about how you can use your skills to make the most impact in our world.”
Sruja Machani, the Class of 2020 president, championed the future leaders earning their diplomas and beginning new journeys amid these unique circumstances.
“As we step into our futures, I hope that we can employ the lessons we’ve learned at Rensselaer, inside and outside the classroom, to address every new day with innovation, purpose, and aim,” said Machani, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and biophysics.
The virtual ceremony held on Saturday is not expected to be the final celebration of the Class of 2020.
“When the public health situation allows us to do so,” President Jackson told the graduates, “we will come together in person to celebrate our graduates, and to express our pride in their successes and our gratitude for the sacrifices they have made for our collective well-being.”