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Commencement speaker Nina Tassler encourages graduates to embrace uncertainty

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Nina Tassler, an advisor and former chairman of CBS Entertainment, expressed the importance of appreciating the unknown instead of fearing it during her commencement address to Boston University’s Class of 2016 Sunday afternoon.

“The best antidote to fear is your curiosity and passion,” Tassler said to the graduates and their family and friends. “Embracing change and confronting fear will serve you well.”

During her speech at Nickerson Field, Tassler recalled many memories from her time as an undergraduate acting major at BU, including her lifelong friendship with former roommate Geena Davis.

Tassler, however, chose a different career path than Davis, now a famous actress. Tassler said although she didn’t expect to be an agent or executive and go on to produce hit shows including “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother,” she fully appreciates her experience.

“Sometimes, the career you end up with has no logical connection to where you began,” Tassler said. “Don’t be afraid to edit your dreams and rewrite the story of what you want to do in life.”

Nicole Mar, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, said she enjoyed Tassler’s speech because she spoke about confronting the fear of life after college.

“There’s a lot of fear right now with graduating and going out into the world, so I really liked that her speech made us think that fear is normal,” Mar said.

Mar said she doesn’t feel like her time at BU is over, even though commencement festivities have come and gone.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet that it’s done,” she said. “I have a feeling that it will hit me when I start moving out and driving away. Once I’m home and away from Boston, that’s when it will really sink it.”

The thousands of attendees at the commencement ceremony filled the bleachers and surrounding area outside of the Nickerson Field’s facility, while graduating students sat organized by college and cheered as their schools were mentioned during speeches.

Stephen Yale, a graduate of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, said he was especially excited when Pardee Dean Adil Najam recognized the graduates.

“The fact that Dean Najam got to say ‘Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies’ provided a lot of college pride, [since] we’re usually forgotten about,” Yale said.

The ceremony began at 1 p.m. with an invocation from School of Theology Dean Mary Elizabeth Moore, followed by an address by student speaker Debra Marcus.

Marcus, a College of Arts and Sciences graduate who transferred to BU the spring of her sophomore year, said in her speech that BU truly changed her life.

“Though my BU experience was somewhat condensed, this school has utterly reshaped who I am,” Marcus said. “When I came here … I felt supported and cared for … It’s reasonable to say that no matter how much time we’ve spent here, we’ve all in some way been transformed.”

BU President Robert Brown presented the Metcalf Awards for Excellence in Teaching to Manher Jariwala in the Physics Department, and Erin Murphy of the English and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department.

The recipient of the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the university’s highest teaching honor, was Christopher Gill of the School of Public Health.

Gill has taught at BU since 2002. Brown praised Gill’s ability to blend his expertise on pharmaceuticals into his courses on global health.

Brown also presented four honorary degrees. The first three were given to Director of the Peace Corps Carrie Hessler-Radelet, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Travis Roy, a BU alumnus who now a motivational speaker. Brown presented the fourth to Tassler prior to her speech.

Roy, a former BU hockey player who was paralyzed by an injury 11 seconds into his first game, received a standing ovation from the audience when he accepted his degree.


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