Published: April 10, 2012

MSU announces spring commencement speakers

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Ireland’s first female president, Mary Robinson, and the head of the National Science Foundation, Subra Suresh, will speak at Michigan State University’s spring commencement  Friday, May 4.

Robinson will address undergraduates at the 1 p.m. convocation, which will be held at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center, One Birch Road. She will receive an honorary doctorate of laws.

Also at that ceremony, MSU alumnus and philanthropist Robert Skandalaris will receive an honorary doctorate of business.

“Mary Robinson is a respected champion of social justice and equal rights, which will be an inspiration to our future professionals as they prepare to make their mark in the world,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Her example of international leadership aligns with our mission to produce globally savvy, well-rounded students.”

Later that day, Suresh will address advanced-degree candidates at 7 p.m., also at the Breslin Center. He will receive an honorary doctorate of science. Also at that ceremony, Emil Boc, prime minister of Romania from 2008 to 2012, will receive an honorary doctorate of laws.

“MSU is one of the top 100 research universities in the world,” Simon said. “Our partnership with NSF has been – and will continue to be – key to several of our ground-breaking research projects, so we’re excited to welcome the head of the foundation to campus.”

Tickets are not required for either of the free public events. Twitter users may follow both ceremonies using #msugrad12.

Bios of the speakers and honorary degree recipients are below.


As an academic, a politician and a lawyer, Robinson is a leader in the fight for human rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights and gay rights.

She is president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. Robinson served as president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002. She is a member of the Elders and the Club of Madrid and the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

A former president of the International Commission of Jurists and former chairperson of the Council of Women World Leaders, Robinson was president and founder of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative from 2002 to 2010.

Robinson serves as honorary president of Oxfam International in addition to being a board member of several organizations, including the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and the European Climate Foundation. She has served as chancellor of the University of Dublin since 1998.


Skandalaris is the principal and CEO of Quantum Ventures of Michigan LLC, a privately held merchant banking firm.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in accounting from MSU, and a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, Skandalaris became a successful entrepreneur who helped companies increase revenues into the billions. In fact, under his leadership, Noble International LTD became the world’s largest supplier of laser-weld blanks – auto manufacturing tools – with revenues of more than $1 billion.

A philanthropist who believes in entrepreneurial education, Skandalaris established the Skandalaris Family Foundation, which has granted more than 1,200 scholarships to future business leaders. In addition, he established the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, which is recognized as a top program nationally.

Skandalaris remains loyal to his roots, serving as a member of the MSU Athletic Director's Advisory Council. He and his wife, Julie, helped underwrite the building of MSU’s Skandalaris Football Center.


A distinguished engineer and professor, Suresh was nominated by President Barack Obama, and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, as the director of the National Science Foundation in 2010.

Prior to leading the $7-billion federal agency, Suresh was dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, he helped create state-of-the-art laboratories and led the recruitment of women to the engineering field. As an academic, he has co-authored more than 240 journal articles and registered 21 patents.

Suresh has been elected to nine science or engineering academies, including the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition, he has been elected a fellow or honorary member of all the major materials research societies in the United States and India, and has been awarded five honorary doctorate degrees. In 2011, Suresh was awarded the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian honors, for his work in science and engineering by the president of India.


Boc served two terms as mayor of Cluj-Napoca and four years as a member of Romania’s parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. He served as prime minister of Romania from 2008 to February of 2012.


As mayor and a member of parliament, he was instrumental in Romania’s move to membership in the European Union.

Boc’s political roots began at MSU as a visiting scholar. While on campus, he interned for the Michigan Legislature and co-directed the Michigan/Transylvanian Political Leadership Program. The program yielded a partnership between East Lansing and Cluj-Napoca, and therefore the main universities of the two cities: MSU and Babes-Bolyai University.

More than 10 years later, the program continues to foster cultural and academic exchange.

Boc has taught at several universities around the world and has held various party positions, including president of the National Democratic Party of Romania.


Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.