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Commencement speakers chosen

November 22, 2000

Three high-profile men were selected to give commencement speeches to MSU’s graduates for December’s ceremonies.

Raymond Kurzweil, developer of the world’s first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, Alejandro Junco de la Vega, a journalist and newspaper publisher from Mexico, and Jeffrey N. Cole, an MSU alumnus and retired industrialist, will give keynote speeches.

Kurzweil, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Kurzweil Technologies Inc., will receive an honorary degree of humane letters from MSU at the advanced degree ceremony Dec. 8.

A leader in artificial intelligence technology, he has founded several companies in optical character recognition, music synthesis, speech recognition and reading technology.

John Eulenberg, director of MSU’s Artificial Language Laboratory and a professor of audiology and speech sciences and linguistics, said Kurzweil has done “visionary research on breaking down barriers in disabilities.”

“I think Dr. Kurzweil will bring a vision of how technology has in the past affected the way we live, and sharpen our understanding of how technology may change not only our lives in the future but how we think about ourselves,” he said.

Junco de la Vega, publisher of El Norte, El Sol and Reforma, will be presented with an honorary humanities degree during the first of two undergraduate degree ceremonies Dec. 9.

He will be addressing students in the colleges of Arts and Letters, Communication Arts and Sciences, Education, James Madison, Natural Science and Social Science.

Known as an advocate of freedom of the press, Junco de la Vega was a panel member during a conference held last year on human rights and press freedom in Latin America.

James Spaniolo, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, said the address is appropriate because Junco de la Vega has been a friend to MSU’s School of Journalism.

“He is a pioneering journalist and publisher in Latin America in terms of press freedom and independent journalism,” Spaniolo said.

“He represents a tremendous example of how important press freedom is to a democratic system of government. He is someone who has led that fight and won that fight.”

Cole will address students from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, The Eli Broad College of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Human Ecology at the second undergraduate ceremony Dec. 9.

He established the Jeffrey N. Cole Foundation for the Support of the Honors College at MSU and serves as chairperson of the Honors College Director’s Advisory Council.

Ron Fisher, director of the Honors College, said Cole has changed career paths several times in his life. And Fisher said he feels students will be able to relate to Cole after graduation.

“He is an example of a person who has had several careers over his lifetime, which is tremendously representative of what we think is likely to happen to students in the future,” he said. “What you’re trained for in college may not be what you do for your lifetime.”

Fisher also said Cole is an avid supporter of MSU, and said he enjoys giving back to the university. Cole will receive an honorary law degree.

“He has a tremendous devotion to Michigan State and an appreciation for what MSU did for him as a student and during his career,” Fisher said.


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