Kirk Hanson announced as Santa Clara’s commencement speaker
May 9, 2018
Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, will address the graduating class of 2018 at Santa Clara’s 167th undergraduate commencement ceremony on June 16.
“I want to honor the Santa Clara students, both these graduates and all the ones I’ve had the chance to work with,” Hanson said. “I’m very impressed with the students I’ve worked with this year and I want to capture what makes them so impressive.”
The event will be the curtain call on Hanson’s 17 years of service at the Markkula Center, as he is set to step down from his position this summer.
The invitation to be Santa Clara’s honored speaker came just about 10 days ago. University President Michael Engh, S.J. “mysteriously” asked Hanson to come by his office and that’s when Engh asked Hanson to give the commencement address as recognition of the role Hanson has played in building the Markkula Center.
Before coming to Santa Clara, Hanson was working at Stanford when he was challenged to put Santa Clara on the map nationally—and globally—by then-university president, Paul Locatelli, S.J.
“It was that challenge that lead me to retire from Stanford and come here to Santa Clara,” Hanson said. “I think we have accomplished that.”
Throughout Hanson’s tenure, the Center has become the largest university-based ethics center in the world. Center staff provide ethical programming for the Santa Clara campus, as well professionals in business, education, healthcare, journalism, government, technology and nonprofit work.
In his commencement address, Hanson hopes to empower students and remind them of what makes Santa Clara graduates a different kind of person. He’s already workshopping a draft.
“I think the Santa Clara student is generally more sensitive to the social and ethical effects of what they do,” Hanson said. “The typical Santa Clara student has a purpose in life, which is broader than their own wealth and reputation. I think we do a better and better job of talking about value questions, ethics questions and questions of character.”
Although he’s no stranger to public speaking, Hanson admits to being “nervous” because he recognizes what an important opportunity commencement is for him. His family is coming too—which might heighten the spotlight on him.
“I won’t mention I’m a Stanford grad,” he joked. “My family, who all seem to be Santa Clara graduates, will finally respect me because I’ll be getting an honorary degree with this year’s class.”
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