Newswise — Olin College of Engineering held its twelfth Commencement Exercises May 14 on its Needham campus. Cloudy skies and a persistent drizzle did not dampen spirits as 83 undergraduates received bachelor of science diplomas, along with abundant advice on how to use their newly minted degrees to lead meaningful lives, launch successful careers and tackle the multiple challenges facing the world.


The Commencement speaker was Patrick G. Awuah, Jr., founder and president of the innovative Ashesi University in Ghana. Awuah recounted his educational and professional path to attaining his dream of starting a world-class university to educate leaders who would transform Africa.


“My message to you, Class of 2017, is that the most arduous journeys require careful preparation,” Awuah said. “You have received some of that preparation here at Olin, but you will need to continue preparing for the tasks at hand. Apprentice with someone. Nurture your professional and personal relationships. Find a buddy, or buddies, for this trek.”


Noting the world they are graduating into was challenging one “full of wonders and evolving threats,” he urged the graduates to embrace the responsibility to change the world.


“Although you probably don’t see yourselves as leaders yet, you already are,” he said. “The coming challenges of the world, and the possibilities available for overcoming them, will require great leadership of you. And it seems to me that to be great leaders, we must first be good citizens.”


Olin President Richard K. Miller stressed the importance of mentors in career and life. Miller described the decisive impact his undergraduate mentor at UC Davis, Mel Ramey, had made on his life and noted recent research establishing the critical role caring faculty play in students’ later success.


“What students need at their core is caring—the kind of caring they get from a mentor,” said Miller. “The kind of caring I was lucky enough to experience in my undergraduate studies because of Mel Ramey. I hope that is kind of education is what you experienced here at Olin. That has been a personal goal of mine from Olin’s inception.”


Student speaker Eleanor Funkhouser, representing the Class of 2017, urged her classmates to focus on the challenges of everyday life in the context of family and relationships.


“Regardless of whether the work you do changes the world, the way you act on the everyday scale is absolutely going to impact the people close to you,” said Funkhouser. “And going to Olin provided an unbelievable amount of material to shape how you will do all the interpersonal stuff.”


Assistant Professor Paul Ruvolo gave the students a final assignment to reflect on the values they had developed over their four years in the “Olin bubble” and decide how to implement them in their life after Olin.


“More than the specific content you learned in your four years at Olin, it is the ways of thinking, the ways of challenging and the ways of empathizing that you must hold onto tightly as you leave this place,” said Ruvolo.


Board of Trustees Chair Ken Stokes recalled the tradition of philanthropy represented by Franklin W. Olin and the F. W. Olin Foundation’s creation of Olin College.


“It is the hope of the Olin Foundation, and a hope shared by the college, that in addition to a world-class education, our graduates would take with them an appreciation for the role of philanthropy in making the world a better place,” said Stokes.