Four years after earning his own two degrees from Case Western Reserve, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb urged the university’s 2022 graduates to pursue opportunities that inspire passion—even if they lead in unexpected directions.
“What I want to ask of you as you keep writing your story is to engage with the world around you and really hone in on your ‘why,’ ” said Bibb, who in 2018 received his JD and MBA from CWRU, during Sunday’s commencement address. “What motivates you? Energizes you? Keeps you up at night? Engage with those things and really explore them.”
Cleveland’s second-youngest mayor recounted how the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks initially led him to study political science and international relations in college, but two other developments pointed him toward a different path. First, community organizing in Washington, D.C. reminded him of the challenges his own Cleveland neighborhood faces, and second, he received invaluable advice while serving as a Capitol Hill intern.
“Justin, your aim in life should be to do something, not just be anything,” Bibb recalled then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama telling him. “Focus on the impact.”
Those early college experiences changed Bibb’s focus to his hometown—specifically to acquiring the skills and knowledge he would someday need if he were to lead the city.
“I am here to tell you all, you’ve got this,” Bibb said. “This is the time to be bold. To challenge the status quo. To be fearless.”
The ceremonies marked the university’s first indoor ceremonies since 2019, and President Eric W. Kaler’s first CWRU Convocation since taking office last July. Kaler honored university trustee Frank Linsalata, who previously chaired the board and the university’s $1.82 billion capital campaign, with the 2022 President’s Award for Visionary Achievement.
“It is an understatement to say that this university would not be the same without his leadership, his generosity and his commitment to student success,” Kaler said.
The ceremony also saw engineer and philanthropist Mark Gelfand receive an honorary degree in recognition of his generosity in encouraging young people here and in Africa to learn more about science and engineering.
Also receiving an honorary degree was former CWRU Provost and Executive Vice President John Anderson, who became president of the National Academy of Engineering after leading the Illinois Institute of Technology for eight years.
More than 2,500 students from across the university’s eight schools were scheduled to participate in diploma ceremonies this weekend.
Current Board of Trustee Chair Fred DiSanto, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Weatherhead School of Management, told the Convocation audience that he would not be the person he is today without his time at the university.
“I… hope that your experience here—including the times that were most challenging—enables you to move forward with confidence, compassion and a curiosity about the world and its people,” DiSanto said. “Because those are the qualities that lead our graduates to make bold discoveries, to lead in ways that positively impact human lives, and to become agents for change in the world.”