Executive chair of Google to speak at commencement

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UC Berkeley alumnus Eric Schmidt, current executive chairman and former chief executive officer of Google, will be the keynote speaker at the May 12 commencement ceremony this year.

Schmidt was chosen from a list of candidates through a survey distributed to the graduating senior class by The Californians, the student organization responsible for coordinating the ceremony. The class’s vote was then approved by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s office.

“UC Berkeley has one of the best computer science departments in the world, and it is exciting to see the University honor this by choosing such a prominent member in computer science as our commencement speaker,” said Jacob Newman, external vice president of the Computer Science Undergraduate Association, in an email.

Schmidt — who received his master’s degree and doctorate in computer science from the campus and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University — sits on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and “helped grow (Google) from a Silicon Valley startup to a global leader in technology,” according to his profile on the company’s website.

Schmidt joined Google in 2001 and served as the company’s chief executive officer for 10 years. Now, as executive chairman, he provides business and policy advice to the chief executive officer and senior leadership in addition to overseeing the company’s relationship with the government and other corporations.

Paul Jacobs, chief executive officer of Qualcomm, spoke at last year’s commencement ceremony. However, prominent figures have been dissuaded from speaking in previous years due to protests by unions representing campus service and technical workers.

Two scheduled speakers declined to speak at the campus’s 2010 commencement because of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 and University Professional and Technical Employees Local 1 boycott of graduation speeches on nine of the 10 UC campuses.

“In the past we haven’t been able to get big name speakers,” said Lila Blanco, associate director of university events and ceremonies, in a 2009 interview with The Daily Californian. “Each time we would ask a politician to come, we would ask if they would cross the picket lines, but they said, ‘absolutely not.'”