NYU President Andrew Hamilton at Commencement 2019

Jun 6 2019

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is an enormous pleasure for me to be here this afternoon with all of you, celebrating the achievements of the magnificent NYU Shanghai Class of 2019. 

Now, my job this afternoon is twofold. Firstly to bring greetings from all of NYU to you graduating students. But secondly, to be brief. I would like to ask all the parents, families, friends, and colleagues on the stage to join me in congratulating our graduates for their achievements these past four years. Congratulations!

And now graduates, now graduates! You have not made it to this point on your own. You've had the love and the support of many. I'm now going to ask you to rise, to try to make eye contact with your loved ones, to show your thanks to those who have helped you to this place.

Now ladies and gentleman, now we have reached the very end of NYU's marathon commencement season. In the past two weeks, my wife Jenny--who is in the audience, who is here this afternoon as well--in these past two week, we have participated in graduating ceremonies for each of NYU's 18 schools and colleges located in New York City. We of course had the university-wide commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium. And three days ago, we were in Abu Dhabi, for the graduation of NYU Abu Dhabi's students. 

Today, we could not be more thrilled to be at our last event, the wonderful graduation ceremony here at NYU Shanghai. And let me say, nothing underscores NYU's global reach like my itinerary in May. But whether I am speaking to graduating classes from the College of Arts of Science, or the Rory Meyers College of Nursing, or the Tandon School of Engineering, or NYU Abu Dhabi or NYU Shanghai, one thing remains the same. It is always an absolute thrill to look out and see a sea of violet--violet gowns worn by all our graduates--and to think of the bright future that lies ahead for NYU's graduates and especially today, NYU Shanghai graduates.

Now in my remarks at the University-wide ceremony this year, I spoke about NYU and the remarkable trajectory that it has been on, over the past 50 years. I made particular reference to 1969, when NYU was primarily a regional, New York-based university that accepted close to 70% of its applicants. Today, NYU's study body is unmatched in its national and international diversity, and the acceptance rate for the whole University has now fallen to less than 16%. 

In metric after metric, NYU has been on an unparalleled upward march into the top tier of world universities. And just a glance at this past year and the honors that have been won by NYU students and faculty, is a testament to that. This year we have had a Nobel Prize won by yes, Paul Romer, who was a founding faculty member of NYU Shanghai and was a beloved GPS professor in his time. Paul Romer won the Nobel Prize. One of our faculty won a Turing Award, which is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in computer science. We had a Pulitzer Prize. We had an Academy Award this year for one of our faculty. Our students have won Rhodes Scholarships, Schwarzman Scholarships, and a record number of Fulbright Scholarships this year--truly demonstrating the talent that exists at NYU and rivals the talent of faculty and students of any university in the world. 



Now as I look back at these past five decades of NYU's history, three qualities, three distinctive characteristics, very much come to mind as critical in playing roles in that upward trajectory. And those three characteristics I would say are: a willingness to take risks, number one. An ambition--soaring ambition--number two. And creativity, unbounded creativity, number three. Risk-tasking, ambition, creativity. 

Consider NYU's global presence. Guided by the conviction that it is better to build bridges to the world rather than walls against it, NYU has created a groundbreaking network of sites and campuses across 6 continents. There was always a risk that that initiative would not succeed. But today, our global enterprise has allowed us to create new ways of teaching, learning and researching across disciplines and especially across borders, and this global outreach has helped make NYU an undisputed leader in 21st century education. And nowhere is there better proof of that than here, NYU Shanghai. 

You have grown into one of the most exciting universities in China, with rigorous academics, a unique blending of Chinese, American, and international cultures and traditions, a liberal arts curriculum that helps develop dynamic and well-rounded leaders, world class faculty, many of whom are sitting behind me this afternoon, and top-notch research centers. NYU Shanghai is a remarkable place, and it contributes enormously to not just wider NYU but also to cultural understanding across the world.

And at a time of division in the world, it is truly a tribute to those who had the original vision that led to NYU Shanghai, and I'm delighted that several of those individuals are on the stage today. And let me single out my predecessor, John Sexton in the second row, whose vision to create NYU Shanghai, and he did not do this work alone. He has had wonderful government partners in the city of Shanghai and the district of Pudong, and we've had a special and a critical partner in East China Normal University, and I want to single out Chancellor Tong, who is a representative today from East China Normal University. We thank him and all of his colleagues. And let me also express my thanks to the leadership of NYU Shanghai--Chancellor Yu and Vice Chancellor Lehman, Provost Waley-Cohen, the faculty, they have done remarkable things these past seven years. 

Now, I said earlier that a willingness to take risks, to have ambition and creativity were essential to NYU's successful trajectory. Well, Class of 2019, I would argue that those three same qualities will also be essential for your own trajectory after you leave NYU Shanghai, the trajectory of your lives. 

Luckily, as NYU Shanghai students, you have had abundant opportunities to develop risk-taking, ambition, and creativity. You needed all three of those qualities to be admitted a student here, just as you needed all three of those qualities to succeed here. And you, every one of you, has succeeded brilliantly. And so, to the Class of 2019, wherever on the globe your life takes you, whatever that next step in your career may be, do know, that you take with you, the warmest best wishes of my wife Jenny and of me, but you also take with you the congratulations of the entire NYU community. NYU Shanghai Class of 2019, congratulations to you all!"



More speeches from the ceremony:


Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman
Chancellor Yu Lizhong
Provost Joanna Waley Cohen
Peggy Yu Yu, Commencement Speaker
Anthony Comeau '19
Qu Jiayun '19