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Panasonic Chairman and CEO Joseph M. Taylor Delivers NJIT Commencement Address; Receives Doctor of Science Degree Honoris Causa

The NJIT 2011 commencement was held at the Prudential Center in Newark. More than 2300 students graduated.

Panasonic Corporation of North America Chairman and CEO Joseph M. Taylor today delivered a moving address at NJIT’s 2011 Commencement at the Prudential Center in Newark after receiving an honorary degree. 

Taylor has had a 20-year association with the university through programs he helped develop ranging from academic competitions to scholarships. Through the years Taylor has had personal relationships with more than two dozen NJIT graduates who have become full time employees following commencement.     

More than 2,300 degrees were awarded at the ceremony bringing the total number of degrees awarded by NJIT to more than 72,000. Inventor, sculptor and entrepreneur Daniel A. Henderson, the CEO of Intellect Wireless, Inc., received an honorary degree.

In 1991, Taylor, then General Manager, Applied Materials Group at Panasonic, helped found at NJIT the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge and the Panasonic Scholarship Program now in its 20th year to create “a steady stream of young, smart, energetic science, technology and engineering talent.” The programs were aimed at encouraging high school students, particularly disadvantaged ones, to enter the fields of technology. More than 70 NJIT graduates have been employed by Panasonic upon graduating.   

“Many of you, I know, have already overcome enormous personal and financial challenges in your quest to reach this day,” Taylor said. “I know there are some of you who have worked multiple, part-time jobs every day to pay your tuition and then you volunteer your ‘leftover’ time. I know that so many families did whatever they could to scrape together the financial resources to enable you to attend NJIT. Education is not cheap in America. . . ”

He told the audience that NJIT students have motivated him with their drive to succeed despite all obstacles. “You have inspired me with your passion for knowledge and concern for others. You already know what’s important in life.” 

His advice followed.  Keep your dream alive, Taylor said. That’s what he has learned motivates the most successful people – the likes of Steve Jobs at Apple and investor Warren Buffett whom he has had the opportunity to meet. 

Take responsibility. “As you begin your careers, understand that no one is responsible for your success but you,” he said. “None of us is automatically entitled to succeed, not me, not you.  Success only comes from the effort and talent and passion that we apply to the task.”

And he told them to ignore pundits, who knock the younger generation with their talk of doom and gloom and declining standards. “They write about a ‘generation of slackers.’ It’s nonsense,” he said.

Under Taylor’s leadership, Panasonic, which is based in Secaucus, will move its headquarters operation to a new site in Newark as part of its effort to transform itself into an innovation leader in green business. The company’s new home in Newark will offer employees easy access to a major mass transit hub and will incorporate energy-savings, water-savings and accessibility throughout its design. 

At the commencement, NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch made note of this move: “Panasonic’s presence in the city that has been home to NJIT for more than 130 years will further energize the upward trajectory of Newark’s economy and enhance its role in national and global commerce.”

In addition to his role in leading Panasonic’s North American operations, Taylor also serves as an executive officer of parent company Panasonic Corporation. In this role, Taylor formulates and executes Panasonic’s global business strategy.

Panasonic Corporation of North America is the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation (NYSE: PC), and the hub of Panasonic’s U.S. branding, marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. The company develops, manufactures and distributes an extensive range of digital and other electronics products for consumer, workplace and industrial purposes primarily for the U.S. and Canada.  

Henderson has been granted 26 U.S. patents covering telecommunication systems and devices. His prototype wireless picturephone was received by the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in October 2007 and he has been recognized in Bloomberg Business Week and the Wall Street Journal. He has vast experience in the overseas manufacturing of his own products and has successfully founded and managed several technology companies; his patents, products and multiple companies have generated in excess of $150 million. 

Henderson began his career with IBM and was invited to work with Kazuo Hashimoto, known as the inventor of Caller ID and the modern answering machine. For more than a decade, Henderson has presented the Hashimoto Prize to outstanding doctoral graduates of NJIT at commencement ceremonies. 

He serves on the Board of Visitors of the Albert Dorman Honors College and frequently participates in colloquia for the Honors College students. The Albert Dorman Honors College Computer Lab was dedicated to Henderson in 2008 and he created the NJIT-ECE Phonetel scholarship. Other philanthropic efforts include the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California and the Cliburn Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Since 2007, Henderson has been engaged in the ambitious pursuit of creating outsized public sculpture. A collection of his most recent works will be on view through September at The Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton. His earlier work, “The Brick,” was donated in 2009 to NJIT and is permanently installed in the main entry of Fenster Hall. 

One of the nation’s leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT’s multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of 11,400 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering and cybersecurity, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $121 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com. NJIT has a $1.74 billion annual economic impact on the State of New Jersey.