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The University Magazine

Xerox leader inspires grads to strive for ‘the unimaginable’

President Destler applauds convocation speaker Ursula Burns, Xerox CEO.

Ursula Burns, a veteran Xerox Corp. executive who became chief executive officer in July, says she is proof that the United States is “the greatest country on earth.” She made that observation during her RIT convocation address on May 22.

Burns served as the keynote speaker for RIT’s 124th annual commencement. Just one day prior, Xerox’s board of directors appointed her CEO to replace Anne Mulcahy, who retired from that post July 1. Burns told graduates that her success is reason for each of them to dream big.

“When I was at my own commencement back in 1980, being CEO of Xerox was probably the farthest thing from my mind,” she said. “And I can assure you that no one at my commencement was pointing at me and predicting that I would become a CEO. Women presidents of large global companies were non-existent. Black women presidents of large companies were unimaginable. The possibilities for each of you are also unimaginable.”

RIT conferred degrees on more than 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students during two days of commencement activities. RIT President Bill Destler awarded Burns an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the convocation event.

Burns encouraged RIT graduates to set their sights on “changing the world” by taking up an important cause, helping to create good jobs for others, or simply raising a family that espouses good values.

“Believe in something larger than yourself. Make a difference. Live your life so that at the end of your journey, you will know that your time here was well spent.”

Paul Stella ‘03