2007 Graduation Slideshow
More than You Wanted to Hear:
Students, the graduation speech, in its purest form, is inherently annoying. With all due respect to who have preceded me, it’s a kind of last-chance intergenerational memo – “look kiddies, despite our decaying bodies, frustrated ambitions, failed relationships and the bitterness that has consumed our own lives, we’ve put together a few pointers that you might want to note down.” Oh, we trot out our rightest stars to do the honors,
and quite happily, you play along, but let’s face it, no one’s being fooled here.
But I have tried… I’ve honestly tried to pass on what little career wisdom I’ve managed to glean over the years. For a very short while, I worked as a career counselor for the Dean of Students. I remember one young fellow, evidently attracted by a forensic investigation of the shroud of Turin,
[shroud of Turin]
who asked me about a career in Radioactive carbon dating. I told him that while it might be fun for a while, in the long run, he’d be better off finding a nice girl who didn’t glow in the dark.
Actually, it’s not just that I have so little to offer. From what I’ve learned over the last few weeks, that little is old news to you anyway. You’ve been there, done it all, as I’m sure you know.
It’s true that that for some of you, Evan
the story remains inconclusive – neither Google, nor any of the major intelligence agencies: CIA, MI5, CTU have anything to say about your sordid past. But no matter – your story will emerge in time. Wasn’t it the relentless inspector Javert of Les Mis,
[Hugo and Javert]
Victor Hugo’s masterful 19th century screenplay, who observed (and here I translate freely from the original French): There are no innocent men. Just guilty men whose backstories were dropped from the first act.
The rest of you … were not so lucky.
[BR – two teeth]
Perhaps some of you didn’t know that Brent Randol was a child actor, who survived the temptations of the ad and entertainment industries for nearly 20 years.
[BR – Gerber’s]
His parents had him all set to land a part in the Harry Potter series
[BR in wizard hat]
when he failed to show up at a meeting held at a non-integer address. All the same, his agent continued to push the product, in studios large and small, until he bagged the opportunity of a lifetime,
[BR in Red Sox Cap]
the title role in “Reversing the Curse – The Johnny Damon Story.”
[Johnny Damon – Red Sox star]
Brent’s performance in this, his last film, won him critical praise but – alas! – little else, when the film opened in theaters across New England in late December of 2005.
[Johnny Damon – newly minted Yankee]
Merry Christmas, Red Sox Nation.
[Elay with father before Japanese screens]
Whether teaching piano to the musically inclined ladies of Caesare,
[ES at the piano]
hoisting fish and swapping stories with Ernest Hemingway
[on the boat]
or just putting on the feedbag,
[ES wearing food]
Elay was always the charmer,
[Elay with admiring Mom]
and a man of action
even as he remained a man of letters.
But growing up, Elay always felt somehow different from his fellow students.
[Elay at right angles to the crowd]
When Elay visited us in the middle of March of 2003
[Elay in fatigues]
and found young Bostonians wearing green and doing wild and crazy things, Elay knew he would fit right in.
But there were so many options. By the time he was 20, Elay figured
he would either
study condensed matter physics at BU with Prof. Bill Klein, or
he would pursue a modeling career. Then, in an awful piece of bad luck, he mixed up the applications, sending his modeling portfolio to Bill Klein and his publication record to Calvin Klein. Well, Elay never did get to study with Bill, but you can sometimes catch him late night on the Discovery Channel
flogging a cologne called “Quantum Entanglement”.
[Graham with noisemaker]
Although a free spirit by nature,
[GR on motorboat]
Graham Rowlands was a stand-up kinda guy. From his early youth, Graham served in his town’s volunteer fire department and
[GR at airplane controls]
earned his single engine license before he was 16, helping to support his family at the same time. Musically ambitious, he formed the other half
of a string quintet, started by a friend from the airline.
[Andy by the porch door]
Andy Blaeser was a very flexible young man, as comfortable with a book
[AB in the library]
as he was behind the wheel of a high performance automobile.
[AB in car].
Andy also acquired all sorts of exotic knowledge. Here he is in the green room of the Doctor Phil show, waiting for his turn in front of the camera.
[AB with astronaut]
Today’s topic: “Astronauts in diapers –
“and the men that love them”
And Andy was the envy of physicists everywhere (but especially me).-
[Andy, date and limo]
Andy had a date for the prom.h3. Valentina
[Valentina with teddy bear]
I don’t suppose you’d be surprised to learn that before she came to BU, Valentina Dutta had a promising musical career
[Valentina at the piano]
in her native India,
gobbling up classical music awards like so much chapati.
But she couldn’t play the dutiful child forever. Striking out on her own, Valentina fronted a Taoist orchestra called “No Strings Attached”. Their cover of Paul Simon’s “Sounds of Silence” was a regional hit. But their big break came a few years later, when a talent scout prevailed on them to turn up the volume. And so they did.
He had trouble landing them gigs on the Calcutta music scene; however for some reason, no trouble finding them work as an opening act at casinos across the United States.
Even though they had their reservations, Valentina’s parents supported their daughter’s dream. Here they catch up after a performance in Texas.
[Valentina and parents]
Valentina and the band quit touring a few years back and returned to their families.
[Valentina reading with brother]
“They loved the way we whipped the crowd into a frenzy”, Valentina explained recently,
[Valentina with Elay]
“but physically I think the Chili Peppers found us a little intimidating”. And touring had taken its toll. 2 or 3 nights a week, she and her bandmates found themselves in strange new hotels, staying up at least a half hour past their bedtimes.
With the savings accrued during her performing career, Valentina sought a place to lodge her family during their visits to the States. Sadly, your rock and roll dollar doesn’t buy much in the Boston area.
[back Bay dreams]
Poor Valentina was forced to abandon her Boston real estate dream in favor of a summer place on the north Indian plains.
Her parents report that, yes, it’s a bit drafty but, for a 17th century Mughal palace, there’s a lot more closet space than you might think.
[MG and sister]
Long before BU, Mike Genuardi was a two-sport star in his native Philadelphia.
[MG with bat]
Mike’s first dreams led him toward baseball at Boston College, with the hope of landing a job with the Cardinals
—but he didn’t follow up, pursuing intstead, a football scholarship at BU.
[MG football 1]
So how did he know that the physics department was looking for a middle linebacker with good speed, soft hands and 1400 SATs?
[MG football 2]
As the result of a mysterious childhood incident,
[missing New Yorker cartoon]
Mike became a recognized authority on the leaf cutting ants of Central
America. His intimate photographs
[ant carrying leaf]
of six-legged lifestyles provide for entomology what the National enquirer provides for Lindsay Lohan. And he’s always one step ahead. In the increasingly likely event that our ant brothers one day rule the world, I was relieved to hear that Mike promises to put in a good word for us with management.
Chi Shung Yip
[CSY with train]
Chi Shung Yip was a very happy and contented child. And why shouldn’t he be?
But at the age of 4, the storm clouds gathered. Chi Shung’s parents’ business collapsed and they turned to him for help. Within a year,
[CSY doctoral robes]
Chi Shung had earned a doctorate in philosophy and found a teaching job at his alma mater.
[Prof. CSY between lectures]
But then tragedy struck again – his beloved employer lost its accreditation. As retold in the Police Blotter section of the Chronicle of Higher Education, an undercover operation in the classroom
[classroom saturated with policemen]
revealed the shocking truth: the college had granted tenure to a minor.
And the cops weren’t buying his “a dog ate my ID” defense. Undismayed, Chi Shung landed on his feet. Correctly appraising the growing juvenile obesity problem in his native Hong Kong, Chi Shung launched a series of sucessful workout videos,
[CSY workout video]
stylistically unrivaled until the Kid Bop videos of the following decade.
A few years later, in an attempt to escape his past, Chi Shung decided to switch academic fields and apply to colleges in the US. With Hong Kong’s Educational Testing Service a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Disney corporation, the college admissions process takes a form perhaps unfamiliar to most Americans.
[CSY, Sword in the Stone]
One final note – Chi Shung succeeded Zach Hartwig
[Zach Hartwig, 2005 Kimono scholar]
as the department’s Kimono scholar, an occasional award given to the student, who, in the estimation of the faculty, looks really good in a kimono.
[CSY, 2007 Kimono scholar]
Don Schmit graduated from a magnet science school in Illinois – but he almost didn’t. He started off in an alternative primary school which followed a combination “great books” and “whole learning” curriculum. Each year, the students were asked to portray a character from a great book. The first book was Tom Sawyer. Here’s Don doing a homework assignment from chapter 5
[DS with oar]
and now a geology exercise.
[DS on the rocks]
Don’s parents were growing skeptical when the follow-on book was announced. Don, however, loved Huckleberry Finn.
But they drew the line when the senior book,
[DS, decked out in fedora and brown-striped suit]
Mario Puzo’s, The Godfather, was announced.
[Mitch on skates, smiling]
Mitch Mickalliger transferred into BU from another college in the 3rd week of his freshman year. Apparently as the result of a psychological survey that Mitch took during orientation, the counseling office at his old school suggested that Mitch pledge for alpha, gamma, omicron. By the time Mitch realized his mistake, it was too late.
[Mitch above canyon]
Alpha gamma omicron (AGO) was the agorophobe’s fraternity, whose hazing rituals were particularly cruel.
Brian Stuart presents an interesting case.
Now, most of you are aware that before coming to BU, Brian spent several years at Hellenic College in nearby Brookline,
[BS in toga]
where he earned a degree in divinity.
And I’m sure you know about brother Justin,
[on the beach]
who is the chiropractic profession’s answer to Doogie Howser.
But the story runs deep and long.
[BS in m & m outfit]
Here’s Brian just home from an American Idol tryout. Apparently Simon Cowell found “half-hearted” Brian’s tribute to his favorite rap artist. Brian was devastated.
Another attempt at the big time also failed. How was Brian to know,
that like disco in the 70s,
[BS atop grasshopper]
insect rodeos would burn bright, burn fast and flare out? His deepest, purest ambitions thwarted, like so many other disappointed artists, Brian turned to a life of crime.
[BS in black hat]
Well, not exactly. He didn’t become a gangster. More of a pirate.
No, not that kind of pirate. He was a musical pirate.
No, no, not that kind of musical piracy.
[Pirates of Penzance]
Bingo! That’s the one.
[BS with parrot, BS as Boy Scout]
Inside the Boy Scout, some clever eye spotted a pirate star. And the cartoonists loved him.
Brian did them all: Peter Pan, Hook. He even landed the part of Long John Silver
in Stephen Sondheim’s family musical “Treasure Island”, sort of a follow onto Sweeney Todd.
Oddly enough, a few years later when Peter Jackson revived the Pirates of Penzance, Brian was passed over in favor of Kevin Kline
who had pioneered the role back in the 80s. But in another case of mistaken identity, he too, was disappointed because that part would go to
[Bill Klein, Savoyard]
Bill Klein. – By the way that goes a long way toward explaining Bill’s years
[and here you can hear the inverted commas]
‘on leave’ at Los Alamos.
If I may, I’d like to end my remarks on a serious note. One theme
permeates the photos submitted by your parents:
[roll dressup, ending with Elay]
the sacred game of dressup. It reminds me there is something almost holy about our calling, our love of investigating the smallest and the largest, the most remote and the most subtle. I know, I know … it gets us into trouble. When I was younger, I used to avoid any discussion of what I did. I found there was no surer way to kill a promising party conversation than to let on that I was a physics student. But as I’ve grown older and with me, the other party guests, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think that people are any more interested in the details of precision measurements than they were two decades ago but I find many of them want to unburden themselves. And so, perhaps
uncharacteristically, I shut up.
And they tell me
- I took physics but I never got past Newton’s laws …
- I loved physics but the math always put me off…
- I did OK on the tests but something bad happened in one of the labs… Well, the building opened again the following year but I wasn’t
allowed to return.
Now graduates, this is no time to feel smug and superior or to bemoan the technical incompetence and scientific illiteracy of the common herd – at least not audibly.
This is a time for healing.
You may find, as I have, that the need is more pervasive than you think. I’ve taken to carrying a set of doctoral robes around in the trunk of my car. When I sense that acute and desperate need for physics
reconciliation, I simply say –
— Excuse me a moment. Let me get my vestments.
And when I return, I place my hand on the afflicted forehead and recite
— By the power invested in me by the American Physical Society …
I’m kidding of course. But somewhere down the road, you may find, for yourselves, that being a physicist involves impressing people just a little less and forgiving them a little more. Keep listening, graduates, and best wishes.
[Ms. Elder and Prof. Carey]