Commencement speaker founded laptop nonprofit

Commencement speaker founded laptop nonprofit

This year’s commencement speaker embodies the values and the way the university would like its students to think about their lives, said Kay Onan, special assistant to the president.

The Board of Trustees announced yesterday that Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory and the creator of the non-profit organization One Laptop per Child, will deliver the address and receive an honorary doctorate of public service May 5 at TD Banknorth Garden.

“We try to find people who are exemplars of a life well lived,” Onan said.

Negroponte founded the laboratory in 1980 as a way to facilitate interdisciplinary study and the application of digital technologies. Onan said Negroponte’s interdisciplinary focus matches the university’s emphasis on partnership and collaboration as well as the three-word motto “excellence, innovation and distinctiveness.”

The work of One Laptop per Child offers $100 laptops to children and brings computer power to undeveloped countries. Onan said this relates to the university’s focus on globalization.

Negroponte wrote the best-selling book, “Being Digital,” and funded more than 40 start-up companies including Skype, an online phone service, and Wired magazine.

The process to find a speaker began at the end of last summer, when a committee of students, faculty and the Board reviewed a list of more than 70 potential names “from all different walks of life,” Onan said. Students are solicited to suggest names, she said.

The list is narrowed by the Student Affairs and Alumni Committee and the board of trustees, with President Joseph Aoun making the final decision, she said. About 15,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony, according to a university press release.

Additional honorary degrees will be given at the morning ceremony to Bernard Gordon, founder and chairman of the Analogic Corporation and the namesake of The Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, who will receive a doctorate of science; and Dr. Sylvia Manning, University of Illinois at Chicago chancellor, will receive a doctorate of humane letters.

An afternoon ceremony for graduate students and adult learners will feature speaker Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, associate dean for faculty development at the Harvard School of Public Health. Honorary degree recipients at the ceremony will be a doctorate of science for George J. Kostas, founder of Techno-Economic Services, Inc., and a doctorate of business administration for Northeastern trustee George W. Chamillard, former chief executive officer of Teradyne, Inc.

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