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Gallaudet University today conferred 212 undergraduate and 176 graduate degrees during its 145th Commencement exercises, held at the university’s Field House.

Dr. Vinton Cerf, who is widely recognized as one of the creators of the Internet and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, served as the Commencement speaker and received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Cerf, who is hard of hearing, currently serves as Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, Inc. He served on the Gallaudet Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2005 and currently serves on the Board of Associates.
The theme of Cerf’s speech was about the myriad of world events and technological advances a person can experience over the course of a lifetime. He used his mother, Muriel, as an example because she lived through The Great Depression, World War II, the invention of the computer, the advent of television, the first landing on the moon, and many other experiences before she passed away at 98-years-old.

Cerf then asked the soon-to-be Gallaudet graduates to imagine what they will experience over the next 80 years, from advances in computer technologies and medical procedures to commercial space travel. With the world at their fingertips, he told the students that they have an important responsibility to shape the future.

“Your interests, aspirations, creative talents, and your desires will influence the markets and products of the future. By this time, you will have learned that hard work, patience, and persistence really count in the real world. I hope you have also discovered that doing things that you like and are good at makes work seem more like fun and adventure. You hear often that you should discover what triggers your own passion and pursue that in your career. Do not allow others to define who you are or what your limits might be. These are yours and yours alone to discover and to extend,” said Cerf.

Dr. Douglas Watson also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Dr. Watson is a professor of Rehabilitation Education and Research Rehabilitation, Human Resources, and Communication Disorders at the University of Arkansas and has more than 46 years of work experience in rehabilitation for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Two student speakers, Colleen Flok and Tara Miles, addressed the graduating class. Flok was the undergraduate student speaker and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in deaf studies.

“When we leave Gallaudet, we will start another chapter in our lives and find a new path. What will it be? I have no way of knowing, but I do believe everyone here will simply follow our hearts and dreams and never give up,” said Flok.

Miles served as the graduate student speaker and received a master’s degree in social work. Her speech played off the theme of a popular Gallaudet television advertisement entitled “Imagine Yourself Here.”

“We learned through our amazing time at Gallaudet that if we can imagine it, then we can achieve it. So in response to the question of “what’s next,” if you can imagine it, then it becomes your next “here,” so embark on your next journey of “imagining yourself here,” said Miles.

President T. Alan Hurwitz had a special message for the graduating class as this Commencement was his last before he retires at the end of the year.

“Everyone on this campus has helped me grow and for that, I am forever grateful,” said Hurwitz. “I’m continuously amazed by the spirit of our diverse community here at Gallaudet. This is truly a special place. I hope you all take the spirit of the Gallaudet community with you out there in the world, and share it with others you meet. I know I will. Remember that your Gallaudet education has prepared you for all the triumphs and challenges you will face. You are the leader of your own destiny. You decide which paths you will take. There will be detours and challenges, but ultimately, it is up to you to decide how those challenges will shape you. Look at each challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn. Know that along each step of the way, the Gallaudet community is behind you, supporting you.”

Also at Commencement, Dr. Catherine Andersen and Dr. William J. A. Marshall received professor emeritus status.

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world

Contact:
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*The number of degrees conferred is approximate and has not yet been confirmed by the university’s Office of the Registrar.

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