“We All Are Judged by the Company We Keep”

Issue Date: 
March 12, 2007

Chancellor Nordenberg’s report to the Board of Trustees:

Let me begin by extending a heartfelt “happy birthday wish” to you all. Feb. 28 still is five days away, I know, but we all are together today and will not formally reassemble then. Therefore, even if it is a bit early, I wanted to seize the chance to highlight the fact that next Wednesday will be a big day for Pitt—the 220th anniversary of the Act of February 28, 1787, authorizing our original charter.

I doubt that any of us will see a 220th birthday of our own—though Dr. [Arthur] Levine [Pitt senior vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine] assures me that he and his medical school colleagues are working on that. And even in institutional terms, a life that spans two complete centuries and parts of two others would have to be considered “full.” To offer just one telling point of reference, the convention that crafted the constitution creating this country did not begin meeting until several weeks after our University was chartered. In terms of longevity alone, then, this is an occasion clearly worthy of celebration.

But a far more meaningful reason for greeting the 220th anniversary of our founding with feelings of pride and joy is the record of achievement and impact that has characterized our long history. And within the current Pitt community, and especially within this Board of Trustees, there also should be a deep sense of shared satisfaction about the progress that has been a defining feature of our recent past. Pitt has progressed dramatically in quality and in reputation since the mid-1990s, when we began working together. And when we met in October, I reviewed with you our dramatic climb upward in a range of rankings.

Today, though, I want to look at quality and reputation through the lens of one commonly accepted statement: “We all are judged by the company we keep.” The roots of this observation are not easily traced—largely because it seems to have been so universally embraced. It is a thought expressed both in the Bible and in Hindu proverbs, and in the works of authors ranging from Cervantes to Emerson. More personally, it is something that most of our parents told us, and we still believe it—which may be why people are so interested in rankings of all types. So, let’s take a look at the company Pitt is keeping.

In terms of the development of student potential, which is our most fundamental mission, just before the holidays, Daniel Armanios, a Pitt undergraduate, was named a 2007 Rhodes Scholar, and Anna Quider, another Pitt undergraduate, was named a 2007 Marshall Scholar. Only a dozen institutions can claim to have produced both a Rhodes Scholar and a Marshall Scholar this year—the three national service academies (West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy) and nine universities. Those nine universities are Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, NYU…Pitt…Princeton, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale. That is very good company to be keeping, and it is worth noting that Pitt is the only public university on the list.

While winning both a Rhodes Scholarship and a Marshall Scholarship in a single year is unusual, the fact that we stand out as one of the country’s most consistent producers of high-achieving students is not. Instead, it has become a defining institutional quality.

That quality is reflected in the fact that our University has been Pennsylvania’s leading producer of Rhodes and Marshall Scholars over the past quarter-century. It is reflected in the fact that Prince Andrew came to Oakland to honor Pitt as a Marshall Center of Excellence. And when he did, this is what he said:

In the past five years, the University of Pittsburgh has won more Marshall scholarships than any other state-related university in the United States. And in the Marshall competition, its candidates have regularly outperformed students from some of America’s most famous universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania.

That quality also is seen in our very recent designation as one of the country’s top producers of Fulbright Award-winning students. But the durable nature of that quality is most clearly evidenced by our record, since 1995, of producing two Rhodes Scholars, six Marshall Scholars, four Truman Scholars, four Udall Scholars, one Churchill Scholar (selected just last year, our first year of eligibility), three Mellon Humanities Fellows, and 27 Goldwater Scholars.

Let us shift our attention, then, to research. This is the major area of institutional activity that most clearly distinguishes our mission from that of most other institutions of higher learning. It is our research strength that led to our membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), the by-invitation-only association of the top 60 or so research universities in North America. But, pushing the point further—because we do not just want to be a part of the AAU, we want to be among its strongest members—it is our research strength that distinguishes us even in that elite company.

In terms of reputation, we clearly are best known publicly for our strength in biomedical research, and that strength is growing. According to data released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), we ranked seventh nationally in terms of NIH support attracted by our faculty in FY 2005, the most recent year for which final numbers are available. And look at that company: This top 10 consists of Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Penn, the University of Washington, the University of California at San Francisco, UCLA, Pitt, Washington University in St. Louis, Michigan, and Duke. In fact, for a somewhat different perspective on that same listing, look at the universities sitting just outside the top 10—Yale, Columbia, U.C.-San Diego, Stanford, and North Carolina. Obviously, they, too, are very impressive institutions.

Embedded in this ranking are some other telling numbers. For example, we were the country’s top-ranked institution—by some considerable margin—in support received from the National Institute of Mental Health. There, we led a top-10 group that included UCLA, Johns Hopkins, Penn, UC-San Diego, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, UCSF, Duke, Yale, and Emory.

Or looking at those numbers in yet another way, the NIH dollars themselves are one very important component of our ranking in terms of total federal obligations for science and engineering research and development. In fiscal year 2004, the most recent year for which the National Science Foundation has released numbers, we ranked 12th nationally—well into a very impressive top 15 consisting of Johns Hopkins, the University of Washington, Penn, Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, UC-San Diego, UCSF, Duke, Washington University in St. Louis, Harvard, Pitt, Columbia, Wisconsin, and Yale.

In international education, too, this past year was another outstanding year for Pitt. All four of our area studies programs and our International Business Center were competitively redesignated National Resource Centers by the U.S. Department of Education. There are only 10 other universities, public or private, that have four or more programs that have won National Resource Center designation. They are Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Yale.

Our interests, of course, are not limited to global matters. Instead, we have a strong commitment to the five communities we call home. In late summer, the president of the New England Board of Higher Education issued a list of “best neighbor” urban colleges and universities—those that, to use his language, had “dramatically strengthened the economy and quality of life of their neighboring communities.” He called these institutions the “Saviors of our Cities.” Only seven AAU-member research universities made that list: Case, Chicago, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Penn, Pitt, and Southern California.

Few things seem to be of greater importance to the broader community than strength in athletics. In December, two interesting sets of rankings were released. ESPN used the Sagarin system to rate a university’s combined strength, over the course of the last five years, in two sports—football and men’s basketball. Pitt was tied for 10th with the University of Michigan. That same month, Sports Illustrated released an all-sports ranking, and we were in their top 20.

Of course, our fundraising successes also put us in very good company. According to the most recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, there currently are 12 universities in the midst of campaigns with goals of $2 billion or more. They are Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Michigan, NYU, North Carolina, Pitt, Stanford, Virginia, the University of Washington, and Yale. That is another wonderful group of peers.

Just as important, we are good at managing resources, as well as attracting them. Last month, the National Association of College and University Business Officers released a survey showing percentage increases in the market value of college and university endowments. Pitt ranked fourth among U.S. public universities with endowments in excess of $1 billion and 10th among all universities, public and private, with endowments of that size. This top-10 list included Tufts, Wisconsin, MIT, Northwestern, Penn, Notre Dame, Washington, Yale, North Carolina, and Pitt. As is true with any of these lists, it is important to think both about the quality institutions that made them and the very fine universities that did not.

But my real point goes beyond our position on any single list. Instead, speaking more broadly, when you look at this collection of lists—based on performance as opposed to perception, they serve as a reminder that our statement of ambition adopted in February of 2000, though it may have seemed bold at the time, set an overarching goal that is not beyond our reach—“to be among the best in all that we do.” We are not there yet. This is, in fact, a never-ending goal. But we are moving in the right direction, we have made real progress, and we continue to pick up speed.

Earlier in these remarks, I reflected on the fact that 220 years—at least when measured against the span of our own lives—is an incredibly long time. And that point takes on a special clarity when we think about that log cabin academy sitting at the edge of the American wilderness, even before there was a United States of America, and reflect on all that has happened in our community, our country, and our world since then.

But looking at it another way, taking the summer of 1995 as our starting point and speaking in the collective sense, we now have shouldered the primary stewardship responsibility for nearly 12 years of Pitt’s long institutional life. In effect, we have been given the chance to help write a new chapter in what Robert Alberts, our bicentennial historian, called “a success story—a happy chronicle of a sound and worthwhile accomplishment.” And we have worked hard to ensure that our impact is substantial, positive, and enduring.

Fortunately, we have enjoyed great company in pressing forward with that ambitious agenda. Obviously, our efforts to secure an adequate resource base have been directly tied to the generous donors who have chosen to invest in Pitt. The rise of our athletic programs is a credit to committed teacher-coaches and to outstanding student-athletes. Our community commitments have taken a range of forms, with a heavy emphasis on economic development but also with far greater breadth than that. Our efforts in international education, an area of real institutional strength, continue to benefit from the dedicated efforts of exceptional academic leaders—one of whom, the new Nordenberg Chair [Alberta Sbragia, professor of political science, director of Pitt’s European Studies Center, and director of the center’s European Union Center of Excellence], you had the chance to meet at our June meeting.

Speaking more broadly, both our research successes and our teaching strengths are fueled by truly exceptional faculty members, some of them “home grown” and some of them “recruits” but all of them believing that Pitt is a very special place where exceptional work can be successfully pursued. In literally everything we do, we are supported by a talented and dedicated staff, many of whom have been working hard to advance Pitt for a long time. And, of course, all of us are lucky to be able to work with a student body that, in terms of the complete package of talent and character and commitment, is second to none.

The preamble to the Act of February 28, 1787, our chartering legislation, specifically asserted that “the education of youth ought to be a primary object with every government.” As a Board, we have consistently affirmed our own belief that—even in this large, complex, and decidedly more modern institution, with multiple missions to advance—our primary responsibility is to those currently enrolled as our students.I have no way of knowing what the first students to enroll in the Pittsburgh Academy, more than two centuries ago, were like. However, as I said just a moment ago, I think that today’s Pitt students are among the finest in the world.

It is my privilege to present two of our very best to you this morning. Near the beginning of my presentation, I made reference to the fact that Daniel Armanios had been awarded a 2007 Rhodes Scholarship and that Anna Quider had been awarded a 2007 Marshall Scholarship. They both are here to tell you something about themselves and their experiences at Pitt. And they both are here with their parents. So, let me, as a parent myself, begin by acknowledging Mahera Philobos and Erian Armanios, Daniel’s mother and father, and Theresa and Dan Quider, Anna’s parents, and her brother Scott. We are glad that you all could be here today.

Daniel is from Marietta, Ga. He holds a Donald Henderson Scholarship in the School of Engineering and is completing majors in mechanical engineering and political science. Daniel holds many undergraduate honors, among them a Goldwater Scholarship and a Truman Scholarship. This past fall, he was one of just 32 students nationally named a Rhodes Scholar. If that is not enough, just last week he was one of just 20 students nationally named to USA Today’s 2007 All-USA College Academic First Team.

Anna is from Grand Island, N.Y. She holds a Chancellor’s Scholarship from the Honors College and is completing a triple major in physics and astronomy, the history and philosophy of science, and religious studies. Anna was named a Goldwater Scholar last year and this fall was one of just 44 students nationally selected as 2007 Marshall Scholars. Among her many other honors, I know, she is particularly proud of receiving the 2006 Gerald Bloomfield Memorial Award from the National Society of Physics Students, a scholarship awarded by students and recognizing “enthusiasm, leadership, and academic excellence in physics.”

I could say much more about this outstanding pair of Pitt students myself, but our plan is to let them introduce themselves to you. Therefore, let me ask that you extend a very warm Board of Trustees welcome to Daniel Armanios and Anna Quider.

Anna Quider: “A Liberal Education: Learning for the Whole Person”

My adventure with the University of Pittsburgh began five years ago with a single sheet of paper. That paper was the simple, free Pitt application that was fortuitously mailed to my home in Grand Island, NY. When I filled out that paper, I didn’t expect that it would turn into a letter from the University of Pittsburgh offering me a full- tuition scholarship. Talk about an attention grabber! By the time I came to Pitt for my Chancellor’s Scholarship interview, I was excited about Pitt’s undergraduate physics and astronomy program and its emphasis on undergraduate research. And then I was blown away by the University Honors College.

Walking into the Honors College felt like coming home. I was amazed that students were just hanging out, talking or reading; the atmosphere was alive with the excitement of people doing things that they enjoy and that they want to share with anyone and everyone. On my first visit to the Honors College, I experienced one of its most cherished and vital aspects: the free books. On that day, Dean Alec Stewart gave me a set of The Feynman Lectures on Physics, a three-volume set costing $200, after it came up in my interview that I wanted to read them but they were too expensive. While the cynic in me thought that this could be a sly marketing ploy, I also received the “standard” postinterview book. This convinced me that the dean of the Honors College actually cared about the education of a person he just met and most likely would never see again. At that moment, I knew that I’d found my undergraduate home.

Today, I am delighted to say that my initial assessment of Dean Stewart and the Honors College that he leads was precisely on the mark. In fact, I have learned firsthand that the Honors College puts its money where its mouth is, as the saying goes, by supporting individuals and groups who are doing interesting, worthwhile things. On an individual level, the Honors College funded my trip to the American Astronomical Society meeting in Calgary, Canada, this past summer. I am proud to say that my poster presentation, titled “Cosmic Neutral-Gas-Phase Metal Abundances from SDSS Quasar Composite Spectra,” was awarded the Chambliss Student Achievement Medal for best undergraduate research poster. On a larger scale, the Honors College supports numerous undergraduate publications, including The Pittsburgh Undergraduate Review. I have been involved with this journal since my freshman year, and I served as editor in chief last year. This remarkable journal is the only multidisciplinary, professionally refereed journal of original undergraduate research in the United States and receives submissions from all over the world. The Honors College funds and houses this journal because it believes that undergraduates should have a forum for showcasing their contributions to academic discourse. And I couldn’t agree more.

The Honors College has so many other aspects that I have enjoyed, such as honors housing and the Student Honors Activity Council. As you may have guessed, I could spend the entire day extolling the virtues of the Honors College—which is probably a good thing for when I become a Pitt donor. The whole point of the Honors College, to me, is to encourage students to find what they are good at, help them develop their talent in that area, and then give them a forum for sharing that talent with others. To me, this is precisely what education is about. I cannot imagine my time at Pitt without the Honors College, as I believe that it has shaped my philosophy that learning should be fun, broad-based, and shared by all.

Despite what I just said, I didn’t spend all of my time frolicking in the Honors College. I realize that for progress to be made one has to specialize in a field. I chose astrophysics. Specifically, I am a member of the Pitt Quasar Research Group, led by Dr. David Turnshek and Dr. Sandhya Rao. I have worked with them since November of my freshman year. My group tries to figure out how structure has developed in the universe since the Big Bang. To do this, my group uses large ground- and space-based telescopes. I have spent a total of 30 nights operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona in order to collect data that address these cosmic development questions. On the first night of an observing trip you find yourself having been awake for 30 hours, sitting on a mountain that is 7,000 feet above sea level, freezing in the cold, staring at tiny flecks on a computer screen. At that moment, you decide whether or not research is for you. Not only have I decided that research is definitely my calling, I cannot imagine doing anything else. I am continually amazed that we are able to determine how the universe works and develops just by using physics to make sense of those tiny flecks on the computer screen.

Another defining moment in one’s quest for a research career is how one handles proposals for observing time, specifically Hubble Space Telescope proposals for observing time. My group has one of the highest success rates in the United States for the awarding of Hubble Space Telescope observing time. However, that still means that the majority of our proposals are not accepted, forcing one to face that rejection is an integral part of research. The experience that I have gained through working on observing proposals is as vital to my decision to become a research scientist as my experience of actually using the telescopes.

My experience with undergraduate research is quite anomalous. One reason for this is that I started very early, as a freshman. The most important reason is that I work with world-class scientists who value undergraduate education and who believe that undergraduates can make worthwhile contributions to human discovery. Every one of my opportunities to work on telescopes and help with proposals and do meaningful science has arisen because two Pitt scientists, Dr. Turnshek and Dr. Rao, invested in me. Their return on their investment is that I have enthusiastically and eagerly attacked any project put before me. This has led to my coauthorship of numerous professionally refereed journal articles, posters, and conference proceedings, as well as my receipt of the Goldwater Scholarship. The part of the picture that is missing at this point is: why. Why should anyone care about the Honors College and its dedication to undergraduate attainment? Why should anyone care about undergraduate research? Why should anyone care about one undergraduate’s story? My answer to these questions is that an undergraduate education is a person’s last chance to stave off specialization and expand horizons broadly in a structured, multidisciplinary community. Through the University of Pittsburgh, I am able to commit myself to this educational philosophy and make it a reality. My research experience and B.S. in physics and astronomy have inspired me to become an astrophysicist, a goal that I will work toward at Cambridge this fall. I have also earned a B.A. with majors in religious studies and in the history and philosophy of science. My interests in religious studies arise from a desire to understand human issues and an appreciation that religious values and beliefs profoundly affect historical events at every scale. My interests in the history and philosophy of science arise from a desire to understand science itself as a complex human enterprise with many cultural dimensions. In short, I want to understand life as a whole.

Life doesn’t exist in segmented disciplines, so an undergraduate education should not limit itself to one discipline. This is called a liberal arts education. I consider this an education for the whole person. A person must live in the physical world, and the cultural world, and the political world, and the economic world, and numerous other worlds, and I think that we should strive to understand as much of the many worlds as we can. If anything, this should make us more informed citizens, able to more effectively approach problems and issues in our own inevitably shrunken and specialized spheres of influence. The majority of the students I know at Pitt have more than one major. This is a testament to Pitt’s dedication to a liberal arts education. In this manner, Pitt serves as an example to other institutions, and Pitt’s students as examples to other students, as a way to obtain an education that will last a lifetime, not just a career.

Daniel E. Armanios: “The Living Testament of Many”

I am still asking myself how a young man from Marietta, Ga., would end up today reflecting upon the legacy of this University, a jewel of Pittsburgh, Pa., through himself. I am still asking myself how a young man, a first-generation American, would have the opportunity to reflect on his brief five-year journey at the University of Pittsburgh, whose Cathedral of Learning still genuflects to its very log-cabin birthplace, the Pittsburgh Academy, after a lengthy journey of 220 years. This still seems to be a dream, especially when looking at how my journey started.

My journey has been one of many coincidences and one of fate.

I always thought I would make my niche in this world as an engineer. Other fields of interest would only be placed within the context of helping me to be a more globally conscious engineer. Thus, I applied to places I thought of as predominantly engineering schools: Georgia Tech, Purdue University, Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Then an inconspicuous letter arrived from the University of Pittsburgh. My father told me, “What’s stopping you from applying? You have nothing to lose.” Thus, my journey began with a seemingly ordinary application. I was quickly accepted, and one week after that a FedEx package came to our door. This package was hand-addressed, and when I opened the letter, it was hand-signed. I even felt the bumps in the signature to make sure. This letter had to be important.

“We are pleased to announce that you have been awarded the Donald M. Henderson Scholarship, a full-tuition, room-and-board scholarship.” The time could not have been more opportune. I was disappointed about not being offered the President’s Scholarship at Georgia Tech. I remember being so upset that I tore the rejection letter in half. Now, my spirits were rejuvenated. I was so excited. This was my chance to leave Georgia, the home I knew for 18 years, to engage in new experiences in a Northern city. It was time to visit and see what this Pittsburgh was all about.

When I came to visit, it was snowing, so no one had the opportunity to fool me about the weather. I even remember hugging my mom so she would stop shivering as we walked down Fifth Avenue toward the School of Engineering.

Before I came for my visit, I e-mailed Dr. Marwan Simaan, a National Academy of Engineering professor, to request a meeting with him so I could get his opinion of the engineering school. He sat with me and my mom for more than one hour talking about his experiences at the school. For a person of his national prestige to spend that amount of time with a high school student he did not even know was absolutely unheard of to me.

Pitt’s mechanical engineering workshop would be equally life-changing. A young assistant professor, Dr. Laura Schaefer, explained that the school would not use rankings to promote itself but, rather, performance and active teacher-student interaction. I wanted teachers who gave that kind of care and attention. Coincidentally, Dr. Schaefer graduated from Georgia Tech, and she knew my mom. Thus, my mom felt I would be left in good hands. This was further proof that the University of Pittsburgh was attracting the best and brightest young faculty.

After meeting with Dr. Alec Stewart [dean of Pitt’s Honors College] before the Honors College was renovated and asking about dual-degree programs with the School of Arts and Sciences, he offered to extend my scholarship for five years so I could pursue such a dual-degree program. Yes, the scholarship was nice, but I received scholarships to nearly every school I applied to, including two from Georgia Tech. It was the genuine individualized attention I received from a university with no guarantee I would even enter the school that attracted me.

When I came back from my visit, I talked to my high school teacher—and, to this day, my mentor—Ms. Cynthia Schafer, the head of the social studies department. She told me, “Daniel, you can go anywhere. Why not go somewhere that wants you? A school that wants you will work harder to provide the opportunities you desire.” That same week, I signed my letter of intent. I would be the first student from my Georgia high school to attend the University of Pittsburgh.

Fate did not stop at the doors of the University of Pittsburgh. This University and this Board continued giving me the strength to continue in the most beautiful ways. In the minds of most people at most universities, a student is not capable of engaging in meaningful engineering research until his or her junior year, at the earliest. Yet, Dr. Sylvanus Wosu, the associate dean of diversity in the School of Engineering, did not even allow me to entertain this discouraging notion. Before I even started my freshman year, Dr. Wosu convinced Dr. James Wang and the world-renowned Dr. Savio Woo to give me a chance to intern with them at the Musculoskeletal Research Center. Because of the selfless, relentless action of one associate dean for a student he barely knew, and the trust and confidence of two world-class professors in him and me, I gained the research background that later enabled me to win three National Science Foundation internships at Cornell, Washington State University, and Virginia Tech.

The next summer at Cornell, just one short year after working with Dr. Wang and Dr. Woo, I coauthored, at the age of 19, my first peer-reviewed scientific article in the journal Biomacromolecules. If it were not for the undying faith of Dr. Wosu, Dr. Wang, and Dr. Woo, I might still be trying to find my first research internship.

For me, it was not good enough to be simply a good engineer. I wanted to use my engineering skills across disciplines. Through grassroots work at the University and in the community, I thought maybe engineering could jump-start not just scientific innovation, but conflict resolution in international affairs as well.

In the minds of most people at most universities, a student is incapable of getting pro-Arab and pro-Israeli students to sit in the same room, let alone talk to each other. Dr. Laurie Eisenberg, a then-adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh, ignited in me a small flicker of hope in the impossible. Along with Dr. Alec Stewart, this small candle became an unquenchable fire. In one year, the organization I founded, Session: Middle East, created a forum that brought nearly 50 pro-Arab and pro-Israeli students from across the country and within the local community to discuss not just both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also the impact this conflict has across multiple disciplines, including science. The forum’s proceedings were translated into four languages and disseminated throughout the world. Now, our group is the subject of a planned Egyptian documentary. The optimism and activism our group has created amongst youth toward the goals of peace have created monumental changes in Pittsburgh. So much so, that Aaron Weil, the executive director of the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh, one of the largest in the country, states, “You are impacting students in a way I have not seen anyone do since my arrival here three years ago.”

If it were not for the hope and optimism of Dr. Eisenberg and Dr. Stewart, I might still be eating falafel and hummus alone.

In the minds of most people at most universities, only Ph.D.s are capable of writing publishable work as single authors. Dr. Ilya Prizel at Pitt’s University Center for International Studies, commonly known as UCIS, pushed me to think otherwise. After taking a theory he conveyed in his class on nationalism and applying it to the European aeronautics industry, he encouraged me to present it at a UCIS undergraduate research symposium. The symposium judges gave such wonderful and constructive feedback that I worked on a manuscript for publication. At the age of 21, I was the sole author of a peer-reviewed article in the International Journal of Technology, Policy, and Management.

Without the guidance and motivation of Dr. Prizel, I might still be just writing a class essay.

In the minds of most people at most universities, students cannot directly spur humanitarian action on a global scale. In his own unique and powerful way, Dr. Kwame Botwe-Asamoah in the Department of Africana Studies inspired me to act. He asked us, “What is stopping us from adopting an African child?” From that, a mission was born, “1 Meal for 1 Child for 1 Month.” After meeting Pitt Trustee Eva Tansky Blum, she gave me the confidence that this mission could extend to the local community. With that, we looked for local sponsors. In only two months, Take Control Day grew to involve more than 15 student organizations totaling more than 1,000 active members, two local community sponsors, and more than five colleges and universities across the nation. In just two days, we raised more than $1,000. This money will allow two national student groups, the Student Movement for Real Change and Orphans of Rwanda, to educate and feed more than 100 children in South Africa for a month and nearly complete one local college scholarship for an orphan of AIDS and genocide in Rwanda, respectively. Just imagine—raising enough in two days to provide a small village of children in South Africa with education and food for one month and one Rwandan orphan with a college scholarship for four years. Were it not for the activism of Dr. Kwame Botwe-Asamoah and Trustee Eva Tansky Blum, I might still just be thinking in theory rather than implementing in practice.

In the minds of most people at most universities, no student could ever win the Goldwater, Truman, Marshall, and Rhodes scholarships; yet, because of the living testament of many at the University of Pittsburgh, a son of the University was able to achieve it. I wish I had not ripped my President’s Scholarship rejection letter in half so I could frame it and put it in my Oxford dorm room to remind me of the journey I have traveled.

These awards are not a celebration of my accomplishments but rather of the many people who made them possible. It is because of staff such as Brittany Guthrie, Glinda Harvey, and Cheryl Paul in the School of Engineering; Denise Harper, Lenora Lewandowski, Steve Salas, Dr. Macrina Lelei, and Tim Thompson at UCIS; Jeff Donovan and Mayumi Terano in the Office of Student Affairs; Amy Eckhart, Dr. Ed McCord, Karen Billingsley, and Christopher Chirdon in the Honors College; and “Nettie” DiDiano and Lauree Graham in the Department of Economics.

In addition to faculty already mentioned, many other faculty members made this journey possible. It is also because of faculty such as Dr. Anibal Perez-Linan, Dr. Burcu Savun, Dr. “Moe” Coleman, and Dr. Barry Ames in the Department of Political Science; Dr. Tony Novosel in the Department of History; Dr. Svitlana Maksymenko, Dr. Alexander Matros, and Dr. Steven Husted in the Department of Economics; and Dr. Jeffrey Vipperman, Dr. William Slaughter, Dr. Qing-Ming Wang, and Dr. Lisa Weiland in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Every day, these Samaritans silently go about endlessly giving, and because of them, I have a foundation for the rest of my life. Mentioning them each by name forever reminds me that my journey would have ended where it started—seemingly unattainable visions of a naïve, idealistic youth.

On behalf of me and my family, it has been a great honor to journey with you these past five years that fate has so graciously blessed. Now, both as an engineer and as a political scientist and economist, I hope to continue working on sustainable development and technology policy in arid environments all over the world with two Master of Science degrees in management research and drylands science and management from the University of Oxford. My story will be forever intertwined in the fabric of this University, and I am honored to soon join you as an alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh. With the foundation we have already built in the past 220 years, we have created absolutely unlimited possibilities for the next 220.

Thank you.