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Secretary of Defense to speak at Stanford commencement
STANFORD -- William J. Perry, U.S. Secretary of Defense and a Stanford University professor of engineering-economic systems, will be the featured speaker at Stanford's 104th commencement on Sunday, June 18.
Perry was selected by Stanford President Gerhard Casper from a list of possible commencement speakers submitted by this year's senior class presidents.
“Secretary Perry, both an alumnus and a Stanford faculty member, holds one of the most important and difficult positions in our government,” Casper said.
“In his career, he always has managed to combine academic interests, especially in international security and arms control, with responsibilities in government service and business. I am very pleased indeed that he will be our commencement speaker this year.”
The four senior class presidents - Eric Chen, Paula Dybdahl, Kevin Harrington and Sarah-Marie Martin - in a joint statement praised the selection:
“We were very pleased by how intent President Casper was to provide us with the commencement speaker who was the top choice of the senior class,” they said. “The students really wanted a national leader who has had an integral role in shaping and reshaping national policy in today's changing world. Secretary of Defense Perry not only represents this, but he is a distinguished member of the Stanford community. We are proud that he has accepted our offer to speak.”
Perry, 67, was named Secretary of Defense by President Clinton in January 1994, moving up from deputy secretary. He has pushed for reforms and cost-cutting in the military purchasing system, while working to preserve U.S. industrial expertise for future defense needs.
Named deputy secretary of defense in 1993, he was handed the job of overhauling the $100 billion annual weapons budget, as well as responsibility for day-to-day running of the Pentagon.
In this, his second tour of duty in the federal government, he has drawn on his Stanford research on how the former Soviet Union might convert its huge defense industrial sector to civilian uses. He also studied Chinese and U.S. defense conversion at Stanford.
A native of Pennsylvania, Perry received his bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from Stanford and a doctorate from Pennsylvania State University, also in mathematics. In 1964, he helped to found ESL Inc., a local defense electronics firm, and served as its president until 1977.
In the late 1970s, during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, Perry served as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, with responsibility for weapons systems procurement and research and development. He was the defense secretary's principal adviser on technology, communications, intelligence and atomic energy.
When he returned to the Bay Area, Perry became an executive vice president of Hambrecht and Quist Inc. - an investment banking firm in San Francisco specializing in high-technology companies - and then chairman and chief executive officer of Technology Strategies and Alliances, a technologically oriented investment and consulting firm.
Throughout the 1980s, Perry was actively engaged in teaching and research activities at Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control and at the Northeast Asia- United States Forum on International Policy, also on campus.
He was appointed professor of engineering-economic systems, with tenure, and co-director of the arms control center in 1989.
About 4,000 graduates and 30,000 guests typically attend Stanford's annual commencement ceremony, which also will feature remarks by President Casper and presentation of awards for outstanding teaching and service.
Stanford commencement speakers in recent years all have combined public distinction with ties to the university as a student or faculty member. They have included Yale law professor and author Stephen Carter in 1994, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 1993, modern art authority Kirk Varnedoe in 1992, and Haas Centennial Professor of Public Service John Gardner in 1991.
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