Mason Celebrates Graduates at Commencement 2013

Posted: May 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm, Last Updated: June 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm

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By Robin Herron

President Angel Cabrera poses with graduates as they assemble for the 2013 Commencement.

President Ángel Cabrera poses with graduates as they assemble for the 2013 Commencement. Photo by Alexis Glenn

Thousands of people — soon-to-be-graduates, their families and friends, members of the faculty, university leadership and volunteer board members — packed the Patriot Center on Saturday, May 18, to celebrate the graduates at George Mason University’s 46th Commencement ceremony.

It was the first spring Commencement at George Mason for President Ángel Cabrera, who opened the ceremony by saying, “People often ask me what is the business of the university, what is our purpose, and I always answer the same thing: the purpose of the university is to change the world for the better, one life at a time.”

To highlight that comment, he described four graduating students as examples who reflect the university’s characteristics as described in the Mason idea: innovative, diverse, entrepreneurial and accessible. The students were Mario Cardullo, receiving a PhD in Information Technology; Mona Anita Olsen, receiving a PhD in Education; Yousef Fazel, receiving a BS in Chemistry; and Yulia Lama, receiving a BA in Global Affairs.

This was the second Mason Commencement for the featured speaker, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who received an honorary doctorate from Mason in 2003.

In his remarks on Saturday, Warner referred to his close association with the university over the years, especially when he was governor of Virginia. Warner noted that he had worked with President Emeritus Alan Merten on securing bonds that helped fund nearly $80 million in new construction at the Arlington and Fairfax Campuses.

Sen. Mark Warner congratulates the Class of 2013. Photo by Alexis Glenn

Sen. Mark Warner congratulates the Class of 2013. Photo by Alexis Glenn

Warner commented on the diversity at Mason, which is an expression of the changing face of America, he said, noting his support for immigration reform. He said that when he sat at his undergraduate commencement as the first in his family to graduate from college, he reflected that he would be able to do things that his parents only dreamed about. “You can realize your dreams, and you are well prepared with a Mason diploma,” he told the graduates.

Before he entered public office, Warner co-founded the wireless communications company Nextel and made early investments in hundreds of start-up technology companies that have created tens of thousands of private-sector jobs.  At Commencement, Warner joked that he was probably the only speaker who would tell the audience, “Leave your cell phones on.”

Warner also referred to his Nextel experience when he advised graduates to strive and not be afraid to fail. “I probably learned more from failures than from successes,” he said, pointing out that his first two businesses quickly failed. He was broke, living out of his car and sleeping on friends’ couches when he first heard about cell phone technology. He recalled some of his law school classmates saying, “Who’s going to want a phone in their car?”

2013 CommencementWarner’s second piece of advice was to remember that “you have an obligation and a responsibility to your community.” He urged graduates to become informed citizens and “participate in debates but in a respectful manner.” He decried the partisanship that characterizes public conversation and said, “Disagreements are healthy, but we should be able to disagree without questioning others’ motives.”

The senator got a big laugh with his last words of advice: “Call your mother.” Then he added, “Or your father, or your grandparents, husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, or a teacher or whoever helped get you here, because you didn’t get here by yourself. Tell them ‘thank you.’ Don’t tweet it or post it on Facebook, but tell them face to face.”

Warner was followed by the student speaker, communication major Brennan Morris, who discussed the idea of service as a distinguishing characteristic of Mason graduates. He cited the example of alumna Zainab Salbi, BIS ’96, the founder of Women to Women International, an organization that supports women suffering from post-war trauma. “All of us, like Ms. Salbi, are empowered for service. We will walk in different paths in life, but we will be united in service because that defines us,” he said.

Other speakers at Commencement were Rodney Turner, president of the George Mason University Alumni Association, who welcomed new alumni into the association and urged them to become involved in its activities; and C. Daniel Clemente, rector of the Board of Visitors, who presented the Mason Medal to Ernst Volgenau, former Board of Visitors rector.

To see more photos of Commencement, click here.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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