The university honored more than 12,000 graduates Friday, as USC celebrated its 128th commencement, keying the ceremony with an address from Microsoft Corporation CEO Steve Ballmer, who stressed the importance of “great ideas” and passion.
“I think you start learning about passion and tenacity at USC before you even came here,” Ballmer said. “I think you knew it before you every finished your first tour of the USC campus. The motto of this place symbolizes passion and tenacity: ‘Fight on!’”
He also told graduates he was very optimistic about their future and the impact they can make.
“The opportunities that we’re seeing are really quite amazing,” Ballmer said. “I don’t think there’s any better time to come out of school and have a chance to make a difference across a broad variety of fields.”
Students said they enjoyed Ballmer’s animated speaking style, which elicited loud cheers from the audience several times.
“When a speaker says ‘Fight on,’ people will just say it back,” said Daniel Wiechert, who majored in psychology. “But with his energy, people got really pumped up and meant it.”
Ballmer, whose son attends USC, said the atmosphere of the university was “infectious” and that he “drank the USC ‘Kool-Aid.’”
“He was very funny and represented the school well,” said Nadine Ozedmir, who received a doctorate in pharmacology.
President C. L. Max Nikias had a slightly different message in his remarks, saying 2011 is a time of global change and uncertainty. He said graduates should embrace uncertainty as it is “the beginning of adventure,” and that they would always have the support of the Trojan Family.
“Always remember you do not go forward alone — you go forward as a lifetime member of the Trojan Family,” Nikias said. “This is the greatest and most dedicated community of its kind — to be a Trojan is to be a Trojan for life.”
During the ceremony, Nikias recognized valedictorian Sarrah Shahawy, who majored in biological sciences and French, and salutatorians Samantha Anacona, who majored in biological sciences and oboe performance, and Grant Western, who majored in mechanical engineering.
USC awarded honorary degrees to Ballmer; U.S. Army Materiel Command Commanding General Ann E. Dunwoody; USC Trustee and alumnus Ming Hsieh; Indian writer, actor and director Girish Karnad; former justice of the South African Constitutional Court Albie Sachs; and Noble Prize-winning virologist Harald zur Hausen.
Students said they enjoyed the commencement ceremony and Ballmer’s speech.
“He was really energetic,” said Mason Amato, who majored in economics. “It was a great