|June 13, 2010|
Alan Horn gives graduates script for a successful life
Some of Union's newest graduates walk from the Nott Memorial.
One of the most successful and influential men in the movie industry told Union’s newest graduates to take risks without fear of failure.
“Sometimes, even with all the pieces in place, you will fail,” said alumnus Alan Horn, president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros.
“Be open to change, be adaptable. You must take risks and if you fail, it’s embarrassing, but you will recover, so just go for it. Failure will be, and should be, a part of your story.”
Approximately 500 students in the Class of 2010 received their degrees during the College’s 216th commencement on Hull Plaza Sunday under a light, steady drizzle.
Horn, who received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree, grew up on Long Island and graduated from Union with a degree in economics in 1964. He had switched his major from electrical engineering after a professor not-so-gently suggested he find something that would better suit his talents.
The Schenectady Pipe band sets the stage for Commencement ceremonies.
He went on to head one of the world's most successful movie studios. Warner Bros. is responsible for blockbusters such as “The Dark Knight” and all six films in the Harry Potter franchise. In 2009, the studio’s domestic box office soared to an industry record $2.13 billion, and overseas receipts reached $1.88 billion.
The path to success, Horn said, comes from being “in the right place doing the right work with the right people.”
He stressed, “Pick a career for which you have passion. If your work environment doesn’t feel right, get out. When you find something you love to do, don’t worry about your salary. The money will come later as a by-product of productive work.”
Other advice to students from the movie mogul: Work hard. Find a mentor. Cherish your family and friendships. And do the right thing.
“Be a person of character. Integrity and honor are everything. Actions define your character, and your character will define the kind of life you have. Character requires courage.
President Stephen Ainlay spends a few moments with Alan Horn '64.
“Your generation is more connected, more committed, more diverse than any other that has preceded it,” he observed. “Embrace these qualities. They will serve you for the rest of your life.”
The College also awarded an honorary doctor of science degree to Mildred Dresselhaus, one of the nation’s top experts in physics and a leading advocate for women in science and engineering. Dresselhaus, who has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for more than 40 years, was nominated for the honor by Palma Catravas and Helen Hanson, assistant professors in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Cherrice Traver, dean of engineering.
During her brief remarks, Dresselhaus noted that doing research with students was one of the most enjoyable aspects of her career.
In his charge to the graduates, President Stephen C. Ainlay praised the Class of 2010 members “for the difference you have made in the world beyond our campus.”
He singled out their work in feeding the hungry through projects like Campus Kitchens and Octopus’s Garden; building playgrounds for local children; and raising money for myriad causes, from earthquake recovery to cancer research.
The Garnet Minstrelles perform at Commencement.
In praising the graduates’ academic achievements, he cited the many awards, fellowships and prestigious prizes garnered this year and pointed to a range of artistic, athletic and research accomplishments.
“I hope your time at Union has deepened your love of learning and provided you with intellectual and social tools that will allow you to be successful in whatever you choose to be and do,” Ainlay said.
Calling Union “one of the most unique undergraduate institutions around,” student speaker Nikhil Kothari of Garden City, N.Y. said “students here display an eclectic range of interests and abilities. We’re constantly encouraged to take some sort of initiative, and in a small community such as this, it’s inevitable that each and every student will create a niche for him or herself.”
A biology major who will travel to Ecuador this summer as a Minerva Fellow, Kothari said, “Union molds its students into worldly individuals, intrinsically motivated and intensely concerned with disasters such as those in Haiti and Chile.”
Class valedictorian was Paul C. Hebert, a chemistry major from West Hartford, Conn., and salutatorian was Emily Feld, a biology and sociology major from Centerport, N.Y.
A sign of gratitude
Commencement also featured the graduation of Union’s first group of Posse Scholars.
Since 2006, the College has partnered with the Boston branch of the Posse Foundation, which also has sites in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Washington, D.C. Now celebrating its 20th year, the Posse Foundation selects extraordinary young people with leadership potential who excel academically, but may be overlooked by the traditional college selection process, and send them in multicultural teams – or posses – to top schools like Union.
Earlier, Union honored two members of the Class of 2010 at Prize Day. Lativa Holder was the recipient of the Josephine Daggett Prize, awarded to a senior for conduct and character; while Jillian Falchi was named winner of the Frank Bailey Prize, awarded to the senior who has rendered the greatest service to the College in any field.