Commencement Speaker Urges Master's and Ph.D. Graduates to Develop Their Own Vision of Success

Author: William G. Gilroy

Kerry Ann Rockquemore gives the Commencement address at the 2014 Graduate School ceremony Kerry Ann Rockquemore gives the Commencement address at the 2014 Graduate School ceremony.

The University of Notre Dame’s Graduate School recognized 344 master’s and 204 doctoral degree recipients and presented several awards during Commencement ceremonies Saturday (May 17) in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Kerry Ann Rockquemore, president and CEO of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, delivered the Commencement Address. Rockquemore, who received her Ph.D. from Notre Dame’s Department of Sociology, was also recognized as the recipient of the Graduate School’s Distinguished Alumna Award during the event.

After Rockquemore became a tenured professor, her focus shifted to improving conditions for pre-tenure faculty by creating supportive communities for writing productivity and work/life balance and she founded the center she now heads.

In her address, Rockquemore offered the graduates three things she wished she knew when she was in their position.

“I decided the best way to serve you was by speaking not as scholar to scholar but as person to person,” she said.

Rockquemore first urged the graduates to develop a very clear idea of what success means to them. She noted that her academic career and reputation as a scholar were perceived as being successful, but it was not her version of success.

“I was living a version of success that was not mine,” she said. “To be honest, doing research and publishing was not in my zone of genius.”

Rockquemore’s second point stressed the idea of learning to play with possibility. She described how she and her husband take an hour-long “crazy walk” each Sunday during which they talk about growing their notions of what is possible.

“Develop a habit of thinking and being as if not limited by your current circumstances,” she told the graduates.

Rockquemore’s third and final point of emphasis was on the importance of finding mentors who are the exception and not the rule. She urged the graduates to find mentors whose entire careers were about change and not simply profit.

The recipients of several Graduate School awards were also recognized during the Commencement ceremony.

The top graduating doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, science, and engineering were honored with the Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Awards.

Albertus Horsting

  • In the humanities, Albertus Horsting, a theology Ph.D., was the recipient. Combining the talents and skills of a superb classicist and an insightful theologian, he has made original discoveries about an important fifth-century work by Prosper of Aquitaine—a contemporary of St. Augustine who became one of his biggest promoters and defenders. Horsting, a 2011 Rome Prize recipient, is currently a college fellow in Late and Medieval Latin in the Department of Classics at Harvard University.

Justin Farrell

  • In the social sciences, Justin Farrell, a sociology Ph.D., was the recipient. He used his considerable intellectual and research skills to explore how human values, morality and religion impact our responses to environmental problems, including the BP oil spill of 2010 and the environmental policy conflict in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. He will next join the faculty of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as a tenure-track professor.
  • Anne Elizabeth Martin, an aerospace and mechanical engineering Ph.D., was the recipient for engineering. Her research bridges robotics and biomechanics as she works to develop better models of amputee walking that could lead to improved prosthetic devices. She will become a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas.
  • Akaa Daniel Ayangeakaa, a physics Ph.D., was the recipient in the sciences. He has performed research that is fundamental to our understanding of the structure and nature of atomic nuclei. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at Argonne National Laboratory.
  • Thomas Corke, Clark Equipment Chair in Engineering and Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, was honored as the 2014 recipient of the University’s Rev. James A. Burns, C.S.C., Graduate School Award. The award is given annually to a faculty member for distinction in teaching or other exemplary contributions to graduate education and honors the first Notre Dame president with an advanced degree.
  • Gregory Snider in the Department of Electrical Engineering was recognized as this year’s Director of Graduate Studies Award winner.

Originally published by William G. Gilroy at on May 17, 2014.