“Define your own success,” Jeannie Diefenderfer, E84, told School of Engineering undergraduates at their virtual commencement ceremony on May 23. “It’s easy to get lost in someone else’s rendition of what success or happiness looks like, and then to realize much later, it never really gave you a life of meaning and contentment.”
Diefenderfer, former chief procurement oﬃcer and senior vice president of global engineering and planning at Verizon Communications, is currently vice chair of the Tufts Board of Trustees and a member of the School of Engineering’s Board of Advisors.
She immigrated to the U.S. from Seoul, South Korea, when she was 12, not speaking any English, but only a few years later, she was visiting Tufts. She recalled the crowd of kids playing Frisbee on the quad with music blaring from dorm room windows. “It looked like so much fun, and I wanted to be part of that,” she said. She decided to major in chemical engineering because she had heard it was the hardest major in engineering. “Looking back now, I suppose I had something to prove.”
After college she had an offer from Verizon, which would allow her to stay in Boston. She had planned to stay only a couple of years, but made a career in telecommunications. She learned many lessons along the way, she said, advice she shared with the graduates.
“Take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s really the small acts that matter the most in life, not the grandiose ones,” Diefenderfer said.
“Don’t fall into the easy habit of judging others. I’ve learned that when I judge others, it’s coming from a place of judging myself,” she said.
She pointed to the difference between being busy and getting something accomplished. “I learned early in my career from a wonderful boss that activities are not accomplishments. This really hit me, and I never forgot it,” she said.
“Try not to fret over making a perfect decision,” Diefenderfer concluded. “I used to get paralyzed with anxiety whenever I had to choose between what seemed like a dozen possibilities. . . . In most cases, that decision I made was a lot less permanent than it seemed at the time.”
It has been a year like no other, but “faced with exceptionally challenging circumstances, you have prevailed and accomplished so much,” Dean Jianmin Qu, the Karol Family Professor at the School of Engineering, told the graduates. “Time and the time again, you adapted to new challenges and new expectations. You supported each other and found new ways to lift up your communities. You are truly a special class and you deserve a special recognition.” —Taylor McNeil, University Communications and Marketing
The all-university event is inclusive of the graduates of all schools. This ceremony included the Commencement address as well as the granting of honorary degrees. No individual graduates were recognized at this event. Instead, individual graduates were recognized at the school-specific ceremonies (listed below).
|Saturday, May 22 at 1 p.m. EDT
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences PhD and OTD Hooding Ceremony
Saturday, May 22 at 2 p.m. EDT
Baccalaureate (features interviews, a musical performance, speeches, and multifaith blessings from our chaplains)
Sunday, May 23 at 9 a.m. EDT
|Sunday, May 23 at 10 a.m. EDT
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
School of Engineering (Graduate Programs)
School of Engineering (Undergraduate Programs)
School of Arts and Sciences (Including the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts)
Sunday, May 23 at 12 p.m. EDT
|Sunday, May 23 at 1 p.m. EDT
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (Master’s)
Sunday, May 23 at 2 p.m. EDT
School of Medicine (Public Health and Professional Degree Programs)
School of Medicine (MD Program)
Sunday, May 23 at 3 p.m. EDT