Investiture ceremony ushers in Suresh as ninth president
Carnegie Mellon officially welcomed Subra Suresh as the university’s ninth president last Friday. Following a campus-wide celebration onThursday, Suresh’s investiture ceremony was hosted at Carnegie Music Hall.
The event took place on the day of the 113th anniversary of Andrew Carnegie’s proposal to create what would eventually become Carnegie Mellon University.
Suresh has officially been Carnegie Mellon’s president since July 1. Previously, Suresh was director of the National Science Foundation from 2010–13. Before that, he was the dean and Vannevar Bush professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In Suresh’s speech, he compared his own journey as an immigrant to Andrew Carnegie’s. “In 1838, a 13-year-old boy and his family left their home in Scotland, crossing boundaries — and a very large ocean — to settle in the North of Pittsburgh. That journey transformed his life, and the lives of countless others around the world.”
Suresh, like Carnegie, made the journey to the United States to make an impact. “I’m here because of the vision and courage of a mother who herself was not lucky enough to go beyond high school. Still, she encouraged me to cross many boundaries, knowing all the risks and personal sacrifices she would have to endure, and knowing full well that my journey would transform my life and hers forever,” Suresh said.
“36 years ago, I crossed many national boundaries — and several large oceans — with a partially filled suitcase, less than $100 in my pocket, and a one-way airline ticket, purchased with a loan, to begin a new life that would eventually bring me here,” Suresh said, describing his journey as an immigrant to America.
Suresh’s comparison to Andrew Carnegie resonated with students. “I liked that he compared himself to Andrew Carnegie as an immigrant,” said Julia Eddy, a sophomore electrical and computer engineering major.
Other students were inspired as soon as they heard the characteristic sound of the Carnegie Pipes and Drums open the ceremony.
“It was exciting; every time I come to these events I always get really emotional, just proud to be at this school. I hear the bagpipes and I start tearing up, like ‘wow, this is so great,’ ” said Siriana Abboud, a sophomore French and psychology double major.
The Carnegie Pipes and Drums were followed by the national anthem and a special performance by Carnegie Mellon alumna Patina Miller (CFA ’06).
Miller, who is currently the star of the Broadway revival of Pippin and slated to be in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and Part 2, sang Stephen Schwartz’s (CFA ’68) “Corner of the Sky.”
Raymond Lane, chairman of the Carnegie Mellon Board of Trustees, welcomed the packed music hall and hosted much of the ceremony.
The investiture included remarks and speeches from many prominent Carnegie Mellon staff members and alumni, including Carnegie Mellon’s longest-serving active faculty member, Allan Meltzer, the Allan H. Meltzer university professor of political economy.
Meltzer has served on Carnegie Mellon’s staff for 57 years, and has been here for five of the eight presidents before Suresh.
“Carnegie Mellon succeeded in moving from a good regional school to a major world- class university,” Meltzer said. “Let me assure you, that is an extremely rare achievement. Leland Stanford University comes to mind as another example, but they’ve had the benefit of oodles of substantial boodle — we did not.”
Meltzer’s remarks were followed by a poetry reading by Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker professor of English.
Suresh was then welcomed by representatives from all parts of Carnegie Mellon, including Antoinette Ungaretti (MMCC ’70), president of the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Association and trustee; Roberta Klatzky, the Charles J. Queenan Jr. professor of psychology and chair of the Faculty Senate; and John Lanyon, chair of staff council.
The student body was also represented in the ceremony: Lindsay MacGillivray, senior biology major and student body president; Lukas Ronner, Student Senate chair; and Patrick Foley, chair of the Graduate Student Assembly, all gave remarks.
Many lauded Suresh’s outreach to the Carnegie Mellon community.
“It was gratifying that the first communication we got from him last year was ‘Oh, I’m going on a listening tour.’ It started his presidency on a good note to say that he understood that he didn’t know everything about this school, because not everybody does, but when you come into a position like [president], it’s easy to think that you might,” said third-year architecture major Nikhil Sambamurthy.
Ungaretti also praised Suresh’s listening tour. “Your first 100 days inured you to our alumni. You included us as one of the first stops on your listening tour, and you embraced us as an important constituency of CMU.”
The keynote speaker was introduced by John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Holdren said that Suresh “combines an enormous creativity, an enormous production of potential ideas to be implemented, with the capacity to figure out which ones can in fact be implemented and how he can go about implementing them.”
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, gave the keynote speech. Schmidt noted that Carnegie Mellon has been a home for innovation and entrepreneurship since it pioneered the field of computer science in the 1960s. “It was a mythical place of achievement; the labs here were not just for experiments and research, they were where the future was dreamed up and created,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt, too, made a note of Suresh’s immigrant past. “What’s interesting about our energetic new leader is that he is also a testament to why we need to have an open country, to get extraordinarily brilliant people to come into our country to change our country and build our future.”
The ceremony closed with a performance by the Carnegie Mellon concert choir and the Carnegie Pipes and Drums.
The choir performed “The Oak,” a piece by professor of composition Nancy Galbraith adapted from the poem of the same name by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
The ceremony left students impressed. Evan Wineland, a sophomore electrical and computer engineering major, summed up the mood of the investiture. “I think it was one of the most inspirational moments of my time here at CMU. I think anybody who is not beaming with Tartan pride right now is doing it wrong.”
Suresh received his undergraduate degree at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras before coming to Iowa State University for his master of science and then receiving his doctorate from MIT.
Suresh is also one of only 16 living Americans to be elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine.