Anticipating Spring Convocation: Interviews with Commencement Speakers

Harmesh Bhambra, '16

Harmesh Bhambra, '16

Spring Convocation will take place on Saturday, June 11 2016. Professor Erik Hurst, V. Duane Rath Professor of Economics and the John E. Jeuck Faculty Fellow, will be the faculty speaker and Michael Polsky, founder, President and CEO of Invenergy LLC, will be the alumnus speaker.

Students are anticipating the convocation and so ChiBus ran a straw poll on Facebook to understand whether Boothies remember their past graduations. Out of 58 responses, 45% remembered the speaker, 33% did not remember anything and 22% remembered the speaker and topic. Of course, our spring commencement speakers will improve this ratio!

ChiBus congratulates all Boothies who are graduating this quarter.

What is your favorite commencement speech of all time?

Erik Hurst: I remember Steve Colbert’s at Wake Forest University. He was very funny. Comedians are good commencement speakers because they are entertaining.

Michael Polsky: Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford is a remarkable reflection on the importance of failure, resilience and passion. I have found these to be essential qualities for success in life and as an entrepreneur.

What do you feel is the purpose of a commencement speech?

EH: Faculty speakers are different from other speakers, who have an entertainment or personality draw. Wouldn’t we all want to hear something entertaining? Wouldn’t we love to sit and hear from Bill Clinton or Paul Ryan? Faculty speakers aren’t that. A faculty speaker needs to be true to academic philosophy of the school where research is important.

MP: I believe that the main purpose is to inspire graduates using some specific life examples and lessons. I have tried to use hard work and every opportunity, including both successes and failures, to learn and grow myself. This commencement speech is my opportunity to tell today's graduates my story and offer just a few examples and lessons before they take on the business world, entrepreneurship or whatever is next for them. Maybe it will also be a source of inspiration for them.

What would you like the students to take away from your commencement speech?

EH: A faculty speech is hard because you have to mix several things: being true to your research and the school’s integrity, while giving something broader for the students to take away, and hopefully being entertaining along the way. It is a huge honor to be chosen speaker by the students. This is my first commencement speech and I am going to fly back from London especially for convocation.

MP: I came to this country with just $200 and a few suitcases, but I was armed with a good education and strong desire to do my best. This allowed me to pursue my passion and build a career for myself doing something I love. Not a lot of people get to wake up every day for many years excited about what they do. I want these graduates to understand that education combined with passion, resilience, hard work and a little luck will unlock a lot of doors in their personal and professional careers.

What do you remember from the commencement speakers at your graduation?

EH: I do not remember any of the speeches. I remember being in the ceremony. I won a lot of awards at college and high school – I remember those things.

MP: To be honest, that was nearly 30 years ago and it hasn’t stayed in my memory. Maybe I was too busy with my new business. If graduates remember anything I say next month, much less thirty years from now, I’ll consider it a bonus!

Harmesh is a second year at Booth (about to take on the real world) and also a former Editor-in-Chief for Chibus.