Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

DU mints new alums

DU's summer Commencement awarded degrees to about 700 students.

Under a perfectly clear blue sky in front of a lawn packed with students, friends and family, the University of Denver on Aug. 13 welcomed about 700 new graduate and undergraduate alumni into the fold.

With each name called, families and friends let out cheers and a smattering of applause. Recipients stepped onto the stage in front of Margery Reed Hall as students and stepped off as graduates.

As Chaplain Gary Brower told the graduates in his invocation, they endured much on their road to success, everything from long hours studying to blizzards and even the dreaded H1N1 flu pandemic.

Rahmat Shoureshi, dean of DU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, delivered a lively address that tied together Yogi Berra, Robert Frost, revolution in Iran, and duct tape. And while he joked that it wouldn’t matter what he said — no one remembers graduation speakers anyway — he conveyed three important messages: Never give up, do something positive, and have a plan B.

Shoureshi told the story of how he grew up in Iran, the son of parents who couldn’t read or write, but set his sights on earning a doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He just knew he could earn that degree, return to his hometown and live a peaceful life as a professor at the local university.

“Given so many unknowns, so many dynamics in life, always, always have a plan B,” he warned. “And sometimes a plan C.”

Shoureshi and his wife had even picked out the land where they would build a house. Then Iran’s government was overthrown, the U.S. Embassy was seized and the Iranian hostage situation began. Uncomfortable with the way things were headed, Shoureshi fled for the United States. Things didn’t get easier as the U.S. was enduring a brutal economic downturn, inflation was rampant and unemployment was high. But Shoureshi didn’t give up.

“Be tenacious. Never give up,” he told the graduating class. “No matter how many times you hear ‘No,’ never give up. There is an exciting future out there waiting for you, just as there was an exciting future waiting for me and my wife.”

He reminded the audience how famed baseball player and philosopher Yogi Berra mused predictions are hard to make, especially about the future. And he urged graduates to follow Robert Frost’s call to the road less taken.

And no matter what, he said, do something good.

In the end, he came back to three key tools in life: duct tape, a wrench and a computer mouse.

With the mouse, anyone can travel anywhere and find anything on the Internet. A wrench, he said, is adjustable, and it can be adapted to do any job. And with duct tape, “you can hold any two sides together.” Duct tape can even help negotiate great agreements between governments, Shoureshi said. All someone has to do is gather both sides in a room and apply duct tape to the mouths of the politicians.

After each graduate crossed the stage and joined the community of alumni, DU Chancellor Robert Coombe offered his congratulations and wished them well.

“I hope DU will always have a special place in your hearts,” he said. “You have surely earned a special place in ours.”

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