Journal Archive > 2002 > May

Commencement 2002

Omidyars to deliver main address in ceremony that caps Tufts' 150th

Internet pioneer Pierre Omidyar, founder of the wildly successful online auction service eBay, and his wife, Pamela Kerr Omidyar, will deliver the main address at Tufts' 146th commencement ceremonies on May 19.

The couple, who met while undergraduates at Tufts, will join former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, humorist Roy Blount and a host of accomplished Tufts alumni for special graduation ceremonies marking the university's 150th anniversary this year.

Pierre Omidyar, A88, and Pamela Kerr Omidyar, J89 © Eric Johnson

"Pioneers and philanthropists, Pam and Pierre Omidyar have dedicated their lives to building and strengthening community through innovation, technology and activism," said Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow, who will preside over his first Tufts commencement. "At Tufts, we believe very strongly in these ideals and are proud to see how effectively graduates like the Omidyars have incorporated them into their personal and professional lives."

Pierre Omidyar, a 1988 graduate who majored in computer science, pioneered online person-to-person trading by creating eBay, a web-based community in which buyers and sellers are brought together in an auction-style format to trade personal items. Now a multi-million dollar corporation, eBay is the world's largest online marketplace and includes 42.4 million registered users who conduct $5 billion in transactions each year. Pam Omidyar earned her degree in biology from Tufts in 1989.

Active citizenship
In 2000, the Omidyars invested $10 million in their alma mater to create another community built on the ethic of citizenship, helping to found Tufts' University College of Citizenship and Public Service. The university-wide initiative is focused on ensuring that students graduate from Tufts prepared to be committed citizens and leaders who take an active role in building stronger communities and societies.

"Pam and I want to make sure that in addition to a great education, Tufts students graduate with a 'personalized tool kit,' enabling them to dissect complex societal problems, ferret out their root causes and then mobilize the resources to solve them," Pierre Omidyar said.

Said Pam Omidyar, "We're excited about supporting an environment that encourages experimentation and risk-taking so students and faculty can find and follow their civic passions to make a lifelong, positive difference in our society."

Bacow, who noted that the Omidyars recently received the university's Light on the Hill award for accomplished alumni, praised the couple's work through their charitable foundation to expand and strengthen the roles of community and activism in the United States and around the world. "Together, Pierre and Pam have brought new focus and attention to education for active citizenship," Bacow said. "They are committed to making the world a better place, and they are willing to take risks to make it happen. They are wonderful exemplars of the kinds of alumni Tufts is proud to call its own."

Honorary degree recipients
Because this year's commencement will be the culminating event celebrating Tufts' founding 150 years ago, the university will award honorary degrees to five people with close ties to Tufts, including:

John DiBiaggio, president emeritus, served as Tufts' 11th president from 1992 to 2001. He previously served as president of Michigan State University and the University of Connecticut.

Among his achievements was the establishment of the University College of Citizenship and Public Service, which integrates the theory and application of active citizenship throughout Tufts' undergraduate, graduate and professional school curricula. In 1994, under his leadership, the university launched the Tufts Tomorrow fund-raising campaign, which will reach its goal of $600 million before concluding this year.

Eugene Fama, a 1960 Tufts alumnus, helped write the book on modern finance. He is a professor of finance at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago, where he also chairs the institution's Center for Research in Security Prices.

Fama began teaching modern portfolio theory at Chicago in the 1960s—before modern finance was an established field. His doctoral thesis, "The Behavior of Stock Market Prices," took up an entire issue of the university's esteemed Journal of Business, and the significance of that work had impact throughout the investment industry.

Dr. Roderick MacKinnon, a 1982 graduate of Tufts School of Medicine, stands among the elite scientists of the past half-century as the winner of the 1999 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for his exploration of potassium ion channels in the human body and his precise description of how the body's electrical system works at the atomic level.

The Lasker prizes, often called "America's Nobels," were established in 1946, and more than half of all Lasker winners since 1962 have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

The Rev. William G. Sinkford serves as president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which played a key role in the founding of Tufts. When the charter was issued to the Trustees of Tufts College in 1852, it marked the Universalist Church's first venture into higher education. The first four presidents of Tufts—Hosea Ballou II, Alonzo Ames Miner, Elmer Hewitt Capen and Frederick W. Hamilton—were Universalist ministers.

Sinkford was elected the seventh president of the Unitarian Universalist Association in June 2001 and is the first African American to lead this historically white denomination.

Katherine Haley Will, a 1974 Tufts graduate, is the first woman president in Whittier College's 114-year history. She recently completed a strategic planning process that produced a 10-year plan for the college, located just outside of Los Angeles.

Before joining Whittier, Will was provost and professor of English at Kenyon College in Ohio and associate academic dean at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.

School speakers
Nearly 1,900 students will graduate from Tufts on May 19. The all-university commencement ceremony begins at 9 a.m. on the Medford/Somerville campus. Degree-awarding ceremonies for Tufts' individual schools will follow at 11:45 a.m., also on the Medford/Somerville campus. Degree-granting ceremonies for the School of Veterinary Medicine will take place at 2 p.m. on the Grafton campus.

Keynote speakers for the university's professional schools include:

Dental Medicine: Dr. Richard Valachovic, executive director of the American Dental Education Association since 1997.

Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was the first woman to hold that post.

Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy: Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman.

Medicine and Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences: Dr. Roderick MacKinnon, M82, winner of the 1999 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award and professor of molecular neurobiology and biophysics at Rockefeller University.

Veterinary Medicine: Roy Blount, author, humorist and sports writer.

For additional information on Commencement 2002, visit these web sites: 021502TuftsCommencementSpeakers.htm