Most notable 2016 college commencement speakers from tech and science

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Techiest speakers

Maybe Bradley University in Illinois has the right idea in announcing it will not have any outside commencement speakers, in an effort to move things along. But at least those schools that have chosen technology-related speakers might teach new grads a thing or two before they head off into the wider world. Here’s a look at some of the techiest commencement speakers:

LOOK BACK: 2015’s Techiest College Commencement Speakers

Ellen Stofan
Ellen Stofan

Meredith College, Raleigh, N.C., May 7

Appointed chief scientist in 2013, Stofan advises NASA Administrator Charles Boldon on the agency’s science-related programs and strategic planning and investments. She’s a graduate of Brown University and the College of William and Mary.

Michael Rhodin
Michael Rhodin

Roanoke College, May 7

Rhodin previously was SVP of IBM Watson Group, during which time the AI project evolved into the Watson and Watson Health business units. Rhodin has been with IBM for 30 years, including in software solutions and Northeast Europe. Rhodin’s daughter Olivia is one of the 455 graduates from the Class of 2016, and Rhodin himself is a graduate of the University of Michigan in computer science.

Michael Powell
Credit: Wikipedia
Michael Powell

Pepperdine University Seaver College, April 30

Powell was nominated for the FCC in 1997 by President Bill Clinton and designated as Chairman by President George W. Bush in 2001. He oversaw big changes to VoIP, Wi-Fi and broadband over power line rules. He later headed the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a big lobbying group.

Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison

University of Southern California, May 13

Ellison, who stepped aside as Oracle CEO in 2014, should still have plenty to talk about, including his America’s Cup sailing accomplishments. The Lawrence Ellison Foundation supports basic biomedical research on aging. Ellison attended both the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chicago.

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg

UC Berkeley, May 14

In addition to being Facebook’s COO, Sandberg also founded LeanIn.org, a nonprofit organization and online community dedicated to helping women achieve their ambitions. Sandberg was voted the top choice by students. Sandberg is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.

France A. Cordova
France A. Cordova

Rochester Institute of Technology, May 20

The 14th director of the NSF, the $7.2 billion government agency charged with advanced all fields of scientific discovery, is also president emerita of Purdue University. Previously, she was chief scientist at NASA. She earned degrees from Stanford and the California Institute of Technology.

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Matt Damon and Steven Spielberg

Damon: MIT, June 3; Spielberg: Harvard, May 26

OK, these guys might be a little stretch for techie, but the Academy Award-winning The Martian was one very sci-fi book and movie. And you don’t get much geekier than some of Spielberg’s biggest claims to fame, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., and Jurassic Park.

jeff huber
Jeff Huber

University of Illinois, May 14

The University of Illinois is tapping one of its own for commencement speaker, as Huber earned his B.S. in computer engineering from the school in 1989 (and later a master’s from Harvard). Huber is currently leading Grail, a company developing a blood test to detect early stage cancer, that he formed in memory of his late wife. Bill Gates is a big investor in the company. Huber was an engineer and senior executive at Google from 2003 to 2016, and he played leadership roles in developing/improving products such as Google Maps and Gmail.