Thomas Quinn tells graduates to 'Seize the Day' at Graduate School Commencement


Thomas Quinn, M.D., professor and director, Johns Hopkins' Center for Global Health, delivers the commencement address during the Graduate School Commencement Ceremony

The University of Notre Dame’s Graduate School recognized 389 master’s and 87 doctoral degree recipients and presented several awards during Commencement ceremonies Saturday (May 19) in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Thomas Quinn, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health, delivered the Commencement address. He also was recognized as the recipient of the Graduate School’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Quinn, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Notre Dame, chose “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day” as his message. He discussed four topics under that theme: family, mentorship, collaboration and career.

Regarding family, Quinn urged those who were graduating to thank their families. And he urged their parents to support the graduates’ passion for their work.

“Follow your passion even if the choices you make seem odd or unconventional to others,” he said. “To the parents in the audience, your absolute support and love is what your son or daughter needs most as they pursue their own interests and career, even if it seems different from your pathway.”

In discussing mentorship, Quinn described being mentored by the late George B. Craig Jr., a Notre Dame faculty member who was an internationally recognized expert on the biology and control of mosquitoes.

“I am absolutely sure that there are at least one or more professors who have made an indelible mark on your life,” he said. “George Craig was such a person to me, and I honor him today.

Graduate Commencement Ceremony

“Mentoring is also about giving. Your future experiences will offer you opportunities to mentor others, so remember to dedicate yourself to mentoring others in your professional field. I have tried to instill in myself that same nurturing quality that a mentor can be to other individuals. So ‘seize this day’ to thank the faculty for what they have done to help you reach this wonderful moment of your career, and later offer that same type of guidance to others.”

Quinn also suggested that the graduates consider collaboration.

“In this day of technological innovations, success in one’s career is often dependent upon partnerships and collaboration in which individuals work together to reach a common goal,” he said. “This may vary by profession, but in many fields the teamwork approach usually results in the best success.”

In discussing career, Quinn urged the graduates to stay true to their passions and learn from their failures.
In concluding, Quinn said, “As graduates of this great university, you are in a privileged setting embarking upon the careers of your life. Take advantage of this opportunity to make a difference, ‘seize the day’ and pursue your dreams and desires. Abraham Lincoln said, ‘in the end, it’s not the years your life that count. It’s the life in your years.’”

The recipients of several Graduate School awards also were recognized during the Commencement ceremony.

The top graduating doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, science and engineering were honored with the Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Awards.

Graduate Commencement Ceremony

Prashant Deshlahra, a chemical and biomolecular engineering Ph.D., was the recipient for engineering. His research focused on novel ways to manipulate the activity of heterogeneous catalytic materials. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley with Enrique Iglesia, a leading researcher in the area of heterogeneous catalysis.

In the humanities, the recipient was Hilary E. Fox, an English Ph.D., who has provided groundbreaking insights into medieval concepts of mental activity and understanding. She has accepted a position as a collegiate assistant professor at the University of Chicago.

Timothy Wencewicz, a chemistry and biochemistry Ph.D., whose work is in the area of developing antibiotic chemotherapies based on new scaffolds and microbe-targeted drug delivery techniques, was the recipient in the sciences. He has earned a postdoctoral position at the Harvard Medical School with Christopher Walsh, a prominent scholar in the fields of enzymology and pharmacology.

In the social sciences, Carlos Gervasoni, a political science Ph.D. who completed a synthesis of research on democratization at a sub-national level, focused on his home country of Argentina, was the recipient. He is now an assistant professor at the Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Argentina’s finest social science institute and one of the best universities in all of Latin America.

James VanderKam, John A. O’Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures, and John Van Engen, Andrew Tackes Professor of Medieval History, were honored as co-recipients of the University’s 2012 Rev. James A. Burns, C.S.C. Graduate School Award. The award is given annually to a faculty member for distinction in teaching or other exemplary contributions to graduate education and honors the first Notre Dame president with an advanced degree.

Brian Baker in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was recognized as this year’s Director of Graduate Studies Award winner and Tracy Cabello was named recipient of this year’s Graduate Administrative Assistant Award.