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Spitzer urges Colgate graduates to stay in New York state

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Members of the Class of 2006 applaud during Sunday's chilly and wet commencement.  (Photo by Timothy Sofranko) SEE MORE PHOTOS.

Eliot Spitzer, champion of all things New York, implored Colgate University graduates on Sunday to stay in the Empire State “for the sake of our collective future.”

Prior to his 10-minute speech, delivered outside in a steady rain and 45-degree temperature, Spitzer, attorney general of New York and Democratic candidate for governor, received an honorary doctor of laws degree during the school’s 185th Commencement.
While Spitzer acknowledged that nearly three-quarters of Colgate’s graduates are not native New Yorkers, one could say that he appealed to the New Yorker in each of them.

“Never underestimate the power you hold. Set an example. Work yourself bleary-eyed. Be relentless. Demand more from yourselves, from your government, from your neighbors. Upend the status quo,” he said. “Step up, and do it here in New York.”

Spitzer, who has made a career of challenging the status quo, also cautioned Colgate students to “be prepared for pushback.”

Eliot Spitzer, attorney general of New York and candidate for governor, addresses seniors during commencement.  (Photo by Timothy Sofranko)

“The Wright Brothers were told that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. The Beatles were told that the guitar sound is on the way out. IBM engineers who were told that there was no market for home computers.

"The future doesn’t belong to the army of the status quo. You couldn’t fly, you couldn’t rock, and you couldn’t surf the web if it did.”

Prior to Spitzer’s address, Colgate President Rebecca S. Chopp said in her remarks that the members of the Class of 2006 used their “knowledge, understanding, and insight to make a difference.”

She said she felt “a bit of nostalgia” about this year’s commencement, as she will “never again have the thrill of watching my first class graduate.”

“You and I arrived at Colgate at the same time,” she noted. “We have learned together what this place means, we have made a difference to this place, and we have become Colgate together.”

She charged the 693 graduates from 44 states and 17 countries to never stop doing good work. “Step forward with confidence,” she told them. “Make a difference. Continue thinking and doing.”

Chopp awarded honorary degrees to Spitzer; baccalaureate speaker Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, professor of ethics and theology for Drew University; Alfred J. and Aminy Inati Audi, owners of the L. & J. G. Stickley, Inc. furniture company; and Walter Massey, president of Morehouse College and former director of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Audio Clips

Listen to commencement addresses by clicking the link or listen later by right-clicking and saving the .mp3 file to your computer:

Eliot Spitzer's speech

Rebecca Chopp's speech

Click on a link to hear seniors talk about their favorite Colgate memories.

Najat Khan, Bangladesh

Brian Yellin, New Orleans

Ivan Karaivanov, Bulgaria

Nathan Jebbett, Cortland, N.Y.


Photo gallery

Text of Rebecca Chopp's speech

Text of Eliot Spitzer's speech

Text of Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz's sermon

Commencement website

Special webpage highlights nine graduates

• The university awarded 693 bachelor of arts degrees and two master of arts in teaching degrees.

• Valedictorian was Aleksandar A. Murdzhev of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. Murdzhev, a mathematics and economics major with a cumulative grade point average of 4.11. He graduated summa cum laude with honors in mathematics and honors in economics.

• The salutatorian, with a GPA of 4.06, was Christopher G. Coutlee, of Geneva, N.Y. Coutlee majored in neuroscience and graduated summa cum laude with high honors in neuroscience and distinction in the liberal arts core curriculum.


She then conferred nearly 700 bachelor of arts degrees and two master of arts in teaching degrees.

Here are the recipients of honorary degrees:

Eliot Spitzer, doctor of laws
Eliot Spitzer, nicknamed “Crusader of the Year” by Time magazine and “Sheriff of Wall Street” by 60 Minutes, has been attorney general of New York since 1999. He has spearheaded a broad
array of initiatives that have focused on consumer protection, environmental stewardship, labor rights, personal privacy, public safety, and criminal law enforcement.

He has investigated conflicts of interest by investment banks, illegal trading practices by mutual funds, and bid rigging in the insurance industry. He has helped develop new disclosure policies for pharmaceutical companies after exposing the practice of concealing information about the clinical trials of drugs.

Spitzer began his career in public service as a clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet and, from 1986 to 1992, served as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan under Robert Morgenthau. He became chief of the labor racketeering unit, where he successfully prosecuted organized crime and political corruption cases.

He also spent time in private practice with Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, and Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom. In addition, he was a partner at Constantine & Partners. Spitzer is a 1981 graduate of Princeton University and a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, doctor of divinity
Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz is an activist and theologian whose work centers on developing a theological and ethical discourse from the perspective of oppressed Hispanic women.

Academically trained and an intrinsic member of the mujerista community she studies, Isasi-Diaz embodies the struggle, which by definition begins with personal experience and ultimately advances the dignity and liberation of all Hispanic/Latino women who seek liberation and justice from ethnic prejudice, sexism, and classism.

Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Isasi-Diaz was raised in a Catholic home and educated by nuns of the Order of St. Ursula. She became a political refugee in 1960 and left Cuba to enter the convent and earn a B.A. in European history from the College of New Rochelle in New York. From 1967 to 1970, she worked to overcome poverty and oppression as a missionary in Lima, Peru. In the 1970s, she became dedicated to fighting the oppression of women in churches, religion, and theology.

Today, Isasi-Diaz is professor of ethics and theology at Drew University in Madison, N. J. She holds a master’s degree in medieval history from SUNY Brockport, and a master of divinity, master of philosophy, and a doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Alfred Audi ’60, doctor of humane letters
Alfred Audi ’60 is president of L. and J. G. Stickley furniture company, a century-old family business in Manlius, N.Y., that is distinguished by its commitment to authentic designs, integrity of construction, and quality craftsmanship.

Since taking over in 1974, Audi, along with Aminy, his wife and business partner, has revived Stickley from an ailing company with 22 employees to a thriving international business with three factories, 14 showrooms, and 1,600 employees worldwide.
Audi has shared his success with central New York and Colgate University. He has served on the boards of M&T Bank, the American Furniture Manufacturers Association, the Metropolitan Development Association, the Brooklyn YMCA, and Plymouth Church. Three years ago, the Audi family made it possible for the public library in Fayetteville to expand into the original Stickley factory, and its generosity helped refurnish the Colgate Inn.

Audi has been named entrepreneur of the year by the Central New York Business Journal, and with his wife was recognized as the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year, and the Ernst & Young Upstate New York Entrepreneur of the Year. On behalf of his family, he established the E.J. Audi ’17 scholarship at Colgate, in honor of his father.

Aminy Inati Audi, doctor of humane letters
Aminy Audi is partner in Stickley and president of Stickley, Audi & Co., the retail division of L. and J. G. Stickley. A former freelance writer and reporter for the Voice of America, she is an advocate for women’s issues, human rights, and Arab-American relations worldwide. As a volunteer, she serves central New York’s business, arts, and higher education communities. She has served on the board of trustees of the State University of New York, Fine Furnishings International Advisory Board, the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce, the United Nations Association of Central New York, the OnCenter Convention Center in Syracuse and as president of Onondaga County Pastoral Counseling Center.

She has been named a Post-Standard Woman of Achievement in Business and is a recipient of the Zonta Foundation Annual Crystal Award and Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. She has been a member of Women in Communications National Chapter and the National Organization of Arab-American Women, and on the executive committee of the Junior League of Syracuse.

Audi was a delegate to the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, and to the U.N. Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1992. With her family in Lebanon, she has established an annual scholarship at the medical school of American University of Beirut.

Audi has conducted seminars throughout the country and in Tokyo on Stickley’s continuing mission and the pivotal role Stickley plays in the revival of the Arts and Crafts movement. She is a graduate of New York University. She and her husband, Alfred J. Audi, have three children and reside in Fayetteville, N.Y.

Walter Massey, doctor of science
Walter Massey has had a varied and distinguished career as a physicist, educator, and administrator. Since 1995 he has served as the ninth president of his alma mater, Morehouse College in Washington, D.C., the only all-male, historically black institution of higher learning in the United States.

Throughout his career, Massey has advocated for an understanding of diversity that transcends race to encompass socioeconomic, geographic, and religious differences among individuals. He has consistently worked to advance the teaching of science and math education, the education of minorities, and the role of science in a democratic society.

Massey was influenced by the role models and mentors he met while attending a predominantly black high school in Hattiesburg, Miss., and at Morehouse College, where he earned a bachelor of science degree at age 20.

Since earning his master’s and doctorate in physics from Washington University in St. Louis, he has held a range of administrative and academic positions in the University of California system, and at Brown University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois. From 1991 to 1993 he was director of the National Science Foundation.

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