CORRECTION: This headline on Page 1 of Tuesday’s edition of the Daily should have said Larry Page is co-founder and president of Products at Google.
Trumping in public recognition the choice of former Xerox scientist John Seely Brown as the University’s main commencement speaker, the College of Engineering announced last week that Google co-founder and University alum Larry Page will speak at its graduation ceremonies.
“Clearly, Page is one of our alums who have changed the world,” said Stephen Director, dean of the College of Engineering. “Google has changed the way the world gets its information.”
Page will speak at the School of Engineering’s smaller, more intimate ceremony for Engineering students. Engineering students also have the option of attending the University-wide ceremony, where Brown will speak.
Before graduating from the University with an honors degree in computer engineering and moving on to Stanford University in 1995, Page used Lego bricks to build an inkjet printer; he was also president of the University’s Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society. In the 10 years since, he founded the Internet’s most-used search engine, of which he is currently co-president.
“I use Google daily for everything,” Engineering senior Andrew Chandler said. “I’m also an outspoken proponent of it, and I get angry when people don’t have it as their homepage.”
Chandler said he was disappointed by the University’s choice of Brown as the main commencement speaker, citing a desire among the student body for a more prominent name. To demonstrate his dissatisfaction, Chandler started a group on Thefacebook.com, an online college community, called “Hey Mary Sue! the 2005 Commencement Speaker Blows.”
But the announcement that Page will speak at the Engineering ceremony quelled Chandler’s concerns that his graduation would not be memorable.
“I’m quite excited that he’s coming,” he said. “I called my dad today and said, ‘This is awesome, Larry Page is coming.’ ”
LSA senior Dion Beatty said that he will not attend the University-wide commencement — mostly because he’s disappointed with the choice of Brown — but said that if Page were the one speaking in front of the whole University, he would more seriously consider coming.
“I think the College of Engineering typically gets better speakers every year,” Beatty said.
Director defended the University’s choice of Brown.
“I think John Seely Brown has also changed the world,” he said, citing Brown’s involvement as chief of the research lab that developed the Windows operating system.
As Engineering dean, Director makes the final decision of who to invite to be commencement speaker. First, students and faculty of the College of Engineering make recommendations.
Then a student committee screens them and passes on a few of the best to Director, who chooses one.
Historically, the College of Engineering has often looked to alumni for speakers.
In 1998, it showcased NASA chief and University alum Daniel Goldin, and in 2003 it chose Jerry Levin, University alum and CEO of American Household Inc. Last year, University alum and co-founder of Sun Microsystems William Joy spoke.
Engineering senior Harsh Modi said Engineering students look up to Page as a University alum and technological innovator.
“A lot of people are very impressed with what Google is doing, especially among college students,” Modi said.
That respect prompted Engineering senior Sarah Barr to say that, although she will not graduate until December, she is considering going to the speech just to see Page.
“I know that he holds (the University in high regard), and the students are excited to hear him,” Director said.
The College of Engineering’s graduation ceremonies will begin at 3 p.m. on April 30 in Crisler Arena.