RIT Commencement Speakers Point the Way to ‘Success and Happiness’

Entrepreneur Brian Hinman shares insights during celebration of 3,500 new graduates




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A. Sue Weisler

Entrepreneur Brian Hinman delivered the 2011 Academic Convocation keynote address during RIT’s 126th Commencement on May 20.

That which makes individuals different becomes each person’s greatest gift. The 2011 graduates of Rochester Institute of Technology have been urged to embrace that “gift” by former “Entrepreneur of the Year” Brian Hinman, who offered the call to action today as part of the university’s 126th commencement celebration.

Hinman—who serves as venture partner at Oak Investment Partners, executive chairman of GreenVolts Inc. and executive chairman of Aurora Algae Inc.—provided the keynote address to graduates and guests at Academic Convocation, held inside RIT’s Gordon Field House and Activities Center. It’s the kickoff event to RIT’s annual two-day graduation observance.

“As I see it,” explained Hinman, “the things we have in common as human beings hold us together as a society, compelling us to believe in equal rights, and yet the gifts that make each of us different are what makes society truly great.”

He added, “Finding that thing you do really well is a key to happiness, because it’s your best opportunity to leave a lasting impact.”

Hinman followed his passion for electronics and started his first company at the age of 22 as co-founder of PictureTel Corp. He says the company grew beyond 1,500 employees to eventually generate more than $500 million in annual revenue. Six years later, he helped create Polycom Inc., the world’s leading teleconferencing company. Hinman gave credit to his “sheer will to succeed” and he implored graduates to hold firm to their convictions.

“Graduating from RIT demonstrates that you have tenacity,” he said. “There were certainly times that challenged your ability to finish, but you did. And isn’t victory sweet? Continue this pattern of perseverance throughout your lives; it will bring you success and happiness.”

Hinman, who was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2005 by Ernst & Young, received an honorary doctorate of science, presented by RIT President Bill Destler during the ceremony. In addition, Destler conferred degrees on more than 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

Kaity Werner, a graduating marketing student in RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business, was selected to represent the graduates at the ceremony by providing an address. Werner remained active in community service during her time at RIT, including participation in Habitat for Humanity, and she indicated the broad array of experiences on campus provided her insights on the key ingredient to success.

“I will offer to you the most valuable lesson I have learned here at RIT—balance,” she stated. “A successful person is often a master of balancing fun with work, focus on himself versus the community, and focus on the present versus future goals and ambitions.”

Academic Convocation serves as RIT’s campus-wide commemoration of the conclusion to another successful academic year. Diplomas are distributed to graduates following the event at separate ceremonies held by each of RIT’s eight colleges.

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A. Sue Weisler

Entrepreneur Brian Hinman delivered the 2011 Academic Convocation keynote address during RIT’s 126th Commencement on May 20.