Alumnus and Adobe Systems co-founder Charles Geschke, Class of 1962, told graduating seniors to follow their dreams during his speech at Xavier University's 173rd commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 14. The University conferred degrees on 988 undergraduate and 1,272 graduate students at the University’s Cintas Center.
A highlight this year was that students wore blue recyclable graduation gowns made of recycled plastic drink bottles in keeping with Xavier President Michael J. Graham’s signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2008. Students were asked to recycle the gowns again after the family photos are taken.
Separate ceremonies were planned for undergraduate and graduate degree recipients beginning with the undergraduate class at 9:00 a.m. Graduate degrees were awarded at 3:00 p.m.
Geschke, who also earned a master’s in mathematics at Xavier and a PhD in computer science,received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for his service to the community and his support of Xavier. Though retired as president of Adobe in 2000, he shares chairmanship of the board with co-founder John Warnock. He participates on several boards of educational institutions, non-profits, technology companies, and arts organizations and was a longtime member of Xavier’s President’s Advisory Council, providing guidance in keeping Xavier on the forefront of technology and development.
He told students how his introduction into the world of computer software systems began with an unexpected visit from a former student whom he'd had to remove from the mathematics program at the university where he was teaching. The student returned a year later to thank him because he'd entered the computer development field and was happily earning a living selling computers. To show his gratitude, the former student spent the summer teaching Geschke about computers, and Geschke realized that it was his passion. He went on to co-found Adobe.
The graduate commencement speaker was Roger A. Fortin, PhD, Xavier’s Academic Vice President and Provost, who came to Xavier 45 years ago to teach history. He is stepping down from his position as academic vice president and provost to return to the classroom. During his tenure at Xavier, Fortin researched and published Faith and Action: A History of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 1821-1996, and Xavier’s official historical book of record, To See Great Wonders: A History of Xavier University, 1831-2006. He received the Paul O’Connor Leadership Award at the undergraduate ceremony recognizing his years of service to the University.
Mike Moroski, Class of 2001, received Xavier’s Magis Award which recognizes a Xavier alumnus or alumna who has achieved a high degree of excellence and embodies Jesuit morals and ethical values in his or her life. In the 10 years since he graduated, Moroski has established himself as a passionate advocate of the poor in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, as well as an inspiring mentor to students at Moeller High School.
John C. Lechleiter, Class of 1975, President and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company, was given Xavier’s Distinguished Alumnus Award at the undergraduate ceremony. Lechleiter is responsible for the innovation and development of a wide range of pharmaceutical products that not only improve lives but also respond to some of the world’s most urgent medical needs.
And graduating senior Matthew Ackels, 22, of Dallas was named this year's John A. Elet, S.J., Scholar for academic and service excellence. Ackels is graduating with a bachelor’s in English and minors in natural sciences and theatre.
Finally, 14 members of the Class of 1961 returned to campus to be honored on the 50th anniversary of their commencement. When they graduated, Xavier was all-male, mostly Catholic and Herald Avenue passed through the center of campus.
The Cintas Center is hosting other graduation ceremonies for several local high schools during May and June. Visit the Cintas website and click on the 2011 Graduation link for a complete listing.