ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Larry Page spoke to 4,000 graduates of the University of Michigan on Saturday morning inside the Big House (Michigan Stadium). The Google co-founder and president for products also received an honorary degree from the college of engineering at the ceremony. It was just 14 years after Page obtained his bacherlor’s degree in computer engineering from the university. He encouraged graduates to work hard on reaching their dreams.
Page grew up in East Lansing and is the son of one of the earliest computer science graduates from U of M. He developed a passion for computers at six years old. At the U of M, Page was a member of Tau Beta Pi and president of Eta Kappa Nu. He then entered the Ph.D. program in computer science at Stanford University, where he earned a master’s degree.
“You know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream?” Page asked at the commencement. “And you know how, if you don’t have a pencil and pad by the bed to write it down, it will be completely gone the next morning? Well, I had one of those dreams when I was 23. When I suddenly woke up, I was thinking: what if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links and… I grabbed a pen and started writing! Sometimes it is important to wake up and stop dreaming. I spent the middle of that night scribbling out the details and convincing myself it would work.”
The Google co-founder offered advice to recent graduates: “On a day like today, you might feel exhilarated – like you’ve just been shot out of a cannon at the circus — and even invincible. Don’t ever forget that incredible feeling. But also: always remember that the moments we have with friends and family, the chances we have to do things that might make a big difference in the world, or even to make a small difference to someone you love – all those wonderful chances that life gives us, life also takes away. It can happen fast, and a whole lot sooner than you think.”
Page said his whole family attended the University of Michigan — him, his brother, his mother and father. He thanked his parents several times during the speech. “Just like me, your families brought you here, and you brought them here,” he said. “Please keep them close and remember: they are what really matters in life.”
Honorary degrees were also given to: Donald C. Graham (Founder of Graham Engineering Company), Freeman Hrabowski (President of University of Maryland, Baltimore), Michael I. Posner (world-renowened psychologist), Richard Rogel (founder of Preferred Provider Organization of Michigan) and Joan Hyman Tisch for outstanding philanthropy.
“This is your biggest day at Michigan and you deserve the Big House to celebrate your accomplishments,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “I’ve had the priviledge to address thousands of graduates but I’ve never sent them into a world as challenged as the climate you are entering. We all know the headlines: The economy is fragile, the auto industry is bleeding, foreclosures are up and the job market is down. And yet I have tremendous confidence in the ability of this class of graduates, the class of 2009, to be leaders to move this world forward as a community, state and a nation.”
Ariel Buckler Arce, a graduate of the school of music, theatre and dance, gave the student reflection. “Some say we are the most unluckiest graduating class in history due to the current economic situation,” she said. “But I say it’s never a better time to be young. It’s never been a better time to be creative and take risks. Our paths may not be easy. But look at yourself right now. Look at the support and connections that you will have for the rest of your life because you came to Michigan. Congratulations to the Class of 2009. Make everything count.”
George Dong, a graduate of the college of literature, science and the arts, presented remarks on behalf of the students. “I came to Michigan from Fuijo, China, about 7,000 miles away. When I first came, I barely spoke English. Standing here today, I’m really proud of Michigan’s rich tradition. I’m aware of the diverse culture and heritage of all 50 states and 120 countries that are represented in the audience today. It is the Michigan experience that connects us all.
This year’s graduation ceremony returned to Michigan Stadium, after being held at the Michigan Diag (in the center of campus) in 2008 due to the ongoing construction at the Big House.