NJIT Celebrates 100th Commencement

NJIT conferred 2,900 degrees during its 100th commencement.

On Tuesday, May 17, NJIT conferred 2,900 bachelor, master’s and doctoral degrees during its 100th Commencement exercises. The ceremony was held at Newark’s Prudential Center, in whose stands sat thousands of parents, looking on proudly as their children graduated from NJIT.

“It’s a day of pride and joy -- right now I’m the proudest mother in the world,” said Joyce Thurman, whose son Demetri was among the NJIT graduates. “I’m so happy I don’t know what to do.” 

The university conferred honorary degrees to three prominent people: Ying Wu ’88, chairman of the China Capital Group; Kathleen Wielkopolski, chair emerita of the NJIT Board of Trustees and retired executive vice president and chief financial strategy officer of The Gale Company; and to Leonard Kleinrock, one of the founding fathers of the Internet and a distinguished professor of computer science at UCLA, who also gave the commencement address.

Kleinrock encouraged the graduates to think independently and to break boundaries, something in which he excels. In the early 1960s, while a graduate student at MIT, he developed a mathematical theory known as packet networks, a technology that allowed for the creation of the Internet. In fact, the first computer message ever transmitted was sent from his UCLA lab.  

Kleinrock gave the students a list of boundaries they should seek to break. He  encouraged them to break through the confines of single discipline by mastering two or more. He cautioned them not to be bound by the technology they’ve grown up on, but to find new applications for that technology. And he reminded them that internal constraints -- self limits and self doubts -- were as hard to overcome as external ones. If you push yourself to work hard to overcome obstacles, you will see that you can achieve more than you thought, he said.  

“From now on, there’s no curriculum and no scripts for your lives,” said Kleinrock. “You must now chart your own path. Make your journey fun, do what you care about. Ignore peer pressure and have the confidence not to follow the pack. When you take chances and break boundaries, you’ll be surprised at how much enjoyment you will feel.”

Students said they appreciated Kleinrock’s encouraging message to think independently and break new ground.

NJIT President Joel Bloom also received a rousing ovation when he announced a posthumous Bachelor of Science degree for Joseph Micalizzi, which was accepted by fellow student Dan Weiss.

Bloom, who presided over the ceremony, also mentioned the recent tragedy, encouraging the community to lean on its strengths. He started with the professors whose research has been recognized nationally and internationally, in fields that span evolutionary biology, biomedical engineering, environmental science, solar physics, nanotechnology and cybersecurity.

Bloom highlighted the success of NJIT students. At the recent Dana Knox Student Research Showcase, he said, more than 50 students presented research that included managing automobile traffic, manufacturing electronic components, 3D printing, supplying clean drinking water and evaluating traumatic brain. Another group of students recently received an EPA grant for trying to bring clean water to farming villages in Sri Lanka. And other students won individual awards that included a Fulbright winner, a Goldwater winner, and a Johnson & Johnson Engineering Showcase winner.

And NJIT also excelled in service to the community, Bloom added. For five years in a row NJIT was named to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. By the end of 2015, NJIT students had dedicated more than 45,000 hours to such service.

What with research, community service and classroom learning, he said, NJIT graduates are poised for success.

“Whether you are entering the workplace or going onto further education, I know that you have been well prepared for personal success by this great university,” said Bloom. “It is also our hope that you have been inspired to make service and the beneficial application of the knowledge you have gained part of daily life.

“You now join a force of powerful NJIT alumni who make significant contributions nationally and globally. I urge you to stay in touch with your alma mater, and to share the accomplishments that I also know will inspire the young men and women who will follow you in preparing to embark on a future of success, service and optimism. Congratulations Class of 2016.”

By Robert Florida

This story is tagged: joel bloom, commencement, graduation, leonard kleinrock . Or read more Feature Stories.