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Rensselaer Alumni Magazine Winter 2005-06
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IBM CEO Outlines Innovation Challenges

Samuel Palmisano (center)

Samuel Palmisano (center) and President Jackson are joined by IBM’s Nick Donofrio ’67, Linda Sanford ’75, and John Kelly III ’78. Photo by Stanley Blanchard

Samuel Palmisano, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the IBM Corporation, delivered a Presidential Lecture on “Innovation and Leadership in the 21st Century,” on Sept. 15 in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. In a ceremony prior to the lecture, Palmisano was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Rensselaer.

“The act of honoring someone whose life and work serve as a role model benefits us, because when we honor a person whom we admire, we reaffirm our high ideals for ourselves,” said President Jackson. “Using an ancient tradition to honor a man whose contributions help us to understand ourselves and our world better creates a tangible link between our rich past and a promising future.”

Palmisano spoke of the “longstanding partnership between IBM and RPI, a partnership that has enriched both of our organizations,” and noted the number of alumni working at IBM, including in leadership positions, and the research partnerships that exist between the two organizations. “But what truly unites IBM and RPI, I believe, are our shared values. This is an institution that asks, ‘Why not change the world?’ What better partner for a company like IBM, which for nearly a century has relied on innovation not only to fuel our own success, but more importantly, to contribute in meaningful ways to the global society,” Palmisano said.

Palmisano outlined the innovation challenges and opportunities for the United States in the global marketplace, and he discussed the importance of embracing “a new model of innovation — one that is open, collaborative, multidisciplinary, and global.”

“The opportunities are too important, and the economic stakes are too high, for America to compromise its longstanding commitment to innovation,” Palmisano said. “In an era when commoditization happens at unprecedented speed, innovation has become an economic and societal imperative. And it is a collective responsibility — business cannot do it alone. Neither can universities. Neither can governments. Innovation requires all of us, working together as a society. If we demonstrate that kind of collaborative leadership, the opportunities are ours for the taking. And the benefits will be ours to share.”

Related Link:
Transcript of the Presidential Lecture

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