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Phalanx Honor Society Tapping Ceremony

Keynote Remarks
Presented by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Heffner Alumni House
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Good afternoon.

I would like to thank Phalanx President J.P. Trasatti and Vice President Allison Ahn, as well as the current officers, members, and advisors, for their time and dedication to Phalanx, and to Rensselaer.

As always, I am delighted to be here as part of our annual Phalanx Tapping Ceremony. Ever since the first induction in 1912, the Phalanx Honor Society has recognized those students who have distinguished themselves in three key areas: leadership, service, and devotion to Rensselaer.

To say that Phalanx, the highest honor society at Rensselaer, is difficult to join is an understatement. Members do not simply sign up. They must be nominated – and selected from those nominees—based on contributions that are distinctive and valued. New Phalanx and White Key members comprise only about one half of one percent (0.6%) of our total undergraduate and graduate student body.

Today, we induct 23 new members to Phalanx and 16 new White Keys. As of today, Phalanx now numbers 1,482 active and alumni/ae members and 135 honorary members.

And this year, for the first time, our new White Keys will receive a pin to commemorate this honor, because leadership and service among our freshmen and sophomores is something we want to further recognize and encourage.

In addition, I would like to congratulate our five new honorary Phalanx members. They are:

  • Linda Kramarchyk, Program Manager in Information Technology and Web Science—also fondly known as “the I.T. and Web Science Mom”—who supports students by providing the resources they need, and helps to make Rensselaer not just a university, but a community and a home.
  • Janelle Fayette, Dean of the First Year Experience—who inspires students to strive for excellence; who fosters leadership, and values fairness and honesty… and whose impact on the First Year Experience will set the bar very high for years to come.
  • Jacqueline Farmer, Telecommunications Analyst in Information Technologies Infrastructure, and a Pillar of Rensselaer, to whom we are indebted for her tireless volunteer efforts on behalf of our students—and whose smiling face is well known on the Troy campus, as is her email sign-off: “Keep smiling. I always do.”
  • Claude Rounds, Vice President of Administration and lifelong Troy resident, who managed the physical transformation of our Troy campus during the largest capital improvement period in our history—since the build-out of the Rickett’s Campus, and whose community work boosts our reputation as a preferred employer, vendor, and charitable contributor.
  • And Jeffrey Schanz, Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations, who has been a cornerstone to the tremendous success and growth of the Rensselaer Alumni Association, and who has helped increase participation at Reunion and Homecoming.

Of course, we also extend a special congratulations to the winner of our David M. Darrin ’40 Counseling Award: Burt Swersey, in our School of Engineering, who receives this honor for his exceptional facility in mentoring students so that they far exceed their wildest dreams, both in the classroom and in the business world, and for his passion and success in helping students to see their potential and realize their vision.

Finally, I wish a hearty congratulations and welcome to our newest Phalanx members. Today you join an organization rich with history. As you may know, a “phalanx” is a hallmark of ancient Greek warfare, in which troops would stand close together, in a tightly choreographed formation, creating a wall of shields and a hedge of spears. This produced a strong, cohesive unit nearly impenetrable by enemies.

Now, our Phalanx Society at Rensselaer is not at war. Indeed, a more contemporary definition of the word “phalanx” is “a number of individuals united for a common purpose.” That is what you are. You are a strong and cohesive unit, whose combined talents and energy make Rensselaer a better place. And that is why we honor you today.

Our Phalanx members and inductees have distinguished themselves in a wide range of campus activities, from Greek life to student government, from residence life to ROTC, and from varsity athletics to Union clubs and service organizations. Phalanx members are the people who create and shape the student experience at Rensselaer. Indeed, you were tapped to join Phalanx not merely for being involved in our community, but because your involvement has had real impact.

Interestingly, today—April the 6th—is the anniversary of yet another long-standing tradition of historic Greek origin, one of which you all have heard, and one which celebrates many of the same human qualities that we recognize today at our tapping ceremony: Traits like commitment to a cause, strength and leadership, and that rare ability to rise to the top, to be the crème de la crème.

I am speaking of the Olympics. Back in 1896, April 6th marked the opening ceremonies in Athens, Greece of the Games of the First Olympiad—the first international Olympic Games of the modern era. The parallels between the Olympics and Phalanx, besides their Greek origins, are obvious: Like our Phalanx Society, each Olympic team comprises a tightly knit group of people working in pursuit of a common goal. Like our Phalanx members, Olympic competitors, by virtue of their talent, devotion, and energy, have a huge impact on their chosen endeavors, thus challenging the status quo. And also like our Phalanx members, Olympic competitors are leaders, movers and shakers, ultimately raising the bar for others.

We are indebted to you—for your commitment to helping this university to be even better than it is. That makes you the Olympic Gold of Rensselaer.

As you take your places among our active and alumni/ae Phalanx members, may you continue to lead lives characterized by leadership, service, and devotion—not only to Rensselaer, but also to your chosen careers, and, indeed, to whatever organizations and activities you are passionate about, as you travel through life. Staying involved will help keep you on top—as gold medalists in whatever you do.

Once again, congratulations! And thank you.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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