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Senior Convocation Speakers Tell 2012 Class to Serve Others

May 17, 2012 – Luke Schoenfelder (C’12) told his fellow classmates today that “we owe the world more than to rest on our new pieces of paper” during Georgetown’s Senior Convocation.

The convocation kicks off the university’s 2012 Commencement Weekend, May 17-20

A government major from Lancaster, Pa., and a Marshall Scholar, Schoenfelder told his classmates that life is like a sentence – the kind with nouns and verbs – and noted how important it is to take action (like a verb) to help others.

Being a Doer

The senior listed the "nouns" he worked for during his time at Georgetown, such as Apple and Habitat for Humanity. In 2010, he partnered with the latter organization to use his “Earthbag Technology” in Haiti.

The process entails filling plastic bags from aid organizations with earth or rubble to build permanent structures in Haiti following that country’s devastating earthquake.

“Everyone in the audience today is a doer,” he told his fellow graduating seniors. “Those countless hours we’ve spent in [Lauinger Library], the seemingly limitless number of pages we’ve all read, they’ve all brought us to this moment.”

First Rate

“We owe the world our strenuous verbs,” Schoenfelder added. “They are really what changes things.”

He plans to use his Marshall scholarship to attend graduate school in the United Kingdom, and is now working with the Haitian government to develop new energy technologies to further rural electrification projects.

Helen O’Reilly (SFS’03), the alumni speaker at convocation, told the students not to be second-rate versions of other people.

“What’s the point of using others as a benchmark?” the alumna asked. “I have learned to trust myself and not to compare myself.”

A Yale Law School graduate who now clerks for a U.S. Circuit Court judge, O’Reilly worked as an advocate for teens in the juvenile justice system at a nonprofit before law school.

Honoring Her Parents

Rebecca Yang (SFS’12) of Ithaca, N.Y., the other senior speaking at convocation, recalled how her parents fled China after Mao Zedong’s communist rule.

She said her parents moved to the United States after being persecuted as capitalists and blacklisted.

“Those who remained in China experienced an unprecedented economic revolution,” the international politics major said. “The size of the Chinese economy doubled every eight years for three decades.”

During her time at Georgetown, Yang volunteered in her late grandfather’s Chinese village, where she established a foundation that supports rural education and environmental protection. 

For the world

After graduating, Yang, also a Pickering fellow, will intern at the State Department before beginning work on her master’s in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Yang said personal connections ultimately give meaning to the direction students take in life.

“Let’s hold on to what has driven us while we were here – always reaching out," she said. "… whether it be for Georgetown, for one another or for the world.”

Record Giving

The Eisenstein Family, James, Elizabeth, James, Jenny and Katie

James and Elizabeth Eisenstein, shown with their children, James, Jenny and Katie, issued the 1 Million Reasons to Give challenge to seniors.

The Class of 2012's senior gift broke several giving records, qualifying it for a $1 million challenge grant from a Georgetown alumni parent couple - in this case James (B'80) and Elizabeth (NHS'80) Eisenstein, parents of Katie (C'12).

The students rose to the challenge from Katie's parents to make a $1 million gift to the 1789 Scholarship Imperative if seniors surpassed the 59 percent participation rate of last year's graduating class.