On Friday morning, North­eastern cel­e­brated the Class of 2012’s rich expe­ri­ences and stellar accom­plish­ments at the 110th com­mence­ment, held at the TD Garden in Boston, where the group of 3,200 grad­u­ating seniors was greeted with inspiring remarks from Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun and Gen. (Ret.) Colin L. Powell.

Powell, the former sec­re­tary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, deliv­ered a speech to grad­u­ates infused with pas­sion and humor, in which he reflected on his own col­lege and life expe­ri­ences. His remarks touched on his 35 years in the U.S. Army, as well as a range of topics, including the global chal­lenges of our time, the impor­tance of edu­cating America’s youth and the role grad­u­ates will play in shaping the world. Powell noted that throughout his life, he’s always found sat­is­fac­tion through ser­vice, and urged grad­u­ating seniors to pursue their pas­sions and find their own satisfaction.

Wher­ever you go, what­ever path you follow, you have been well pre­pared by the rig­orous edu­ca­tion you received at North­eastern,” Powell said. “Do some­thing that sat­is­fies you every day, make our society a better place and help your fellow cit­i­zens. Give your time and talent in ser­vice to others. The need to serve others has never been greater in our nation.”

He encour­aged grad­u­ates to make their marks on the future of the country and of the world. “What­ever you think of the world right now…it’s going to be yours to shape it,” he said. He also issued a chal­lenge to stu­dents looking to respond to the con­tinued eco­nomic chal­lenges and polit­ical divide facing America: “Don’t stand on the side­lines: vote.”

  • More than 3,200 graduating seniors received diplomas. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • Students posed for photos before lining up for the entry procession. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • Students posed for photos before lining up for the entry procession. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • Students filled the bowels of the TD Garden before the start of the 2012 commencement ceremony. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • More than 3,200 graduating seniors received diplomas. Photo by Dominick Reuter

  • A graduating senior sounds off a vuvuzela at the start of the undergraduate commencement at the TD Garden. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun addresses graduates at the undergraduate commencement ceremony. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • Commencement was held at the TD Garden in downtown Boston. Photo by Dominick Reuter

  • More than 3,200 graduating seniors received diplomas. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • General Colin Powell delivered the keynote address and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • Students pin each other as the newest members of Northeastern's alumni community. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, a minister and trusted senior advisor to Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • President of the Rockefeller Foundation Judith Rodin was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • Sy Sternberg, who for 11 years served as chairman of Northeastern's Board of Trustees, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • Graduates celebrated at the end of the undergraduate commencement ceremony. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • Seniors move their tassels to signify their graduation from Northeastern. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • President Aoun ended the undergraduate commencement ceremony by spiking a beach ball into the crowd. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

  • Graduates show off their diplomas. — with Wensess Raphael. Photo by Dominick Reuter

  • Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

  • Photo by Mary Knox Merrill

Powell added, “The mar­velous and famous North­eastern co-​​op and ser­vice pro­grams expose you to the nonaca­d­emic world to ground you and con­nect you to the real world that you will be part of.”

Powell was among an esteemed group of global leaders and inno­va­tors receiving hon­orary degrees at the morning cer­e­mony. The other recip­i­ents were: Judith Rodin, pres­i­dent of the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion; Kun­toro Mangkusub­roto, ME’77, head of President’s Delivery Unit for Devel­op­ment Mon­i­toring and Over­sight in Indonesia; and Sy Stern­berg, ME’68, chair of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Board of Trustees.

Each one of you has charted your own path, honed your unique tal­ents,” Aoun said. “Your extra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tions enrich and inspire us all. We are pleased to wel­come you to the North­eastern family.” In his address to grad­u­ating seniors, Aoun encour­aged them to follow three prin­ci­ples that he said have guided him in life: sur­round your­self with people who are ahead of you; don’t be afraid to scare your­self; and under­stand that com­mu­nity gives life and meaning to your promise. He also urged stu­dents to take advan­tage of what they’ve learned on co-​​op, noting this prac­tical, real-​​world expe­ri­ence “is much more than a valu­able skill. At its best, expe­ri­en­tial learning is a way of life.”

Your deci­sions and your choices will shape your lives and careers,” Aoun said. “In a world of rapid change and at a time of enor­mous chal­lenges, they will also shape our col­lec­tive future. We are in your hands.”

Aoun even cred­ited the Class of 2012 with inspiring him to engage with stu­dents on Twitter and “become part of the global con­nec­tivity that your gen­er­a­tion has embraced.”

Emily Batt, a senior physics major who embarked on numerous research endeavors at North­eastern, deliv­ered the stu­dent ora­tion to the Class of 2012 that she described as “an indus­trious, cre­ative, pro­lific group.” She said by choosing to attend North­eastern, she and her class­mates have embraced the impor­tance of expe­ri­en­tial learning to meet a future that requires “a skill-​​set anchored by intel­lec­tual explo­ration, but for­ti­fied with prac­tical expertise.”

At North­eastern, we’ve had the sin­gular oppor­tu­nity to straddle the line between col­lege life and the real world, and that has imbued in us an appre­ci­a­tion for the com­pli­cated imper­a­tives we will face in our future,” she said.

Batt noted the incred­ible accom­plish­ments her class­mates have achieved in areas such as global research, treating ill­nesses, starting com­pa­nies, pur­suing inno­v­a­tive research, pro­gram­ming robots and pro­ducing films. But she also urged grad­u­ates to never lose sight of the impact they will have on the lives they intersect.

When we can per­ceive our work in the con­text of the dynamic com­mit­ments shaping it — to the indi­vid­uals involved and to the envi­ron­ment at hand — we can see the rich­ness of our accom­plish­ments, the value of our fail­ures, and excel­lence of our struggles.”

Throughout the morning, many people offered grad­u­ates con­grat­u­la­tions via Twitter at the North­eastern com­mence­ment hash tag #NU2012. “Con­grats to my brother, future doctor,” one person wrote. “Diploma in hand! Offi­cially grad­u­ated. Thanks to all who made it happen,” a grad­uate tweeted.

In his charge to seniors at the con­clu­sion of the morning exer­cises, Aoun urged grad­u­ates to view their degrees as their pass­ports to the world.

Your degree is your ticket to explore the world and to ques­tion what you find. Wher­ever you are headed, stop and dis­cover new places. Take risks and con­front chal­lenges. Explore new ideas and cul­tures not your own, just as you did here at North­eastern,” said Aoun, who then bounded a beach ball into the sea of graduates.

Later in the day, more than 2,300 stu­dents received advanced degrees at an after­noon cer­e­mony in Matthews Arena.

Com­mence­ment speaker David S. Fer­riero, LA’72, MA’76, the 10th Archivist of the United States, chal­lenged the grad­u­ates to make the world a better place by solving prob­lems in need of fresh solutions.

I encourage you to be bold, create your own oppor­tu­ni­ties and be per­sis­tent,” said Fer­riero, who received an hon­orary doc­toral degree in humane let­ters prior to his speech. “Reflect upon how your new degree can be put to good use locally, nation­ally and internationally.”

Fer­riero — whom Aoun said is “devoted to serving the wise and the curious” — advised stu­dents to con­sider a career in gov­ern­ment service.

He noted a study that found that anger, dis­trust and par­tisan rancor toward gov­ern­ment offi­cials is at an all-​​time high. “The need for hard­working, caring grad­u­ates is great,” Fer­riero said. “Your gov­ern­ment needs you.”

This year’s com­mence­ment cel­e­bra­tions kicked off on Thursday after­noon when North­eastern hon­ored stu­dents receiving doctor of phi­los­ophy degrees at its inau­gural hooding ceremony.

In his wel­coming remarks, Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, noted the tremen­dous accom­plish­ment for the 125 stu­dents being con­ferred degrees on Friday — the largest number in the university’s history.

I hope all of you grad­u­ates will look back at what a spe­cial a time this was. Very rarely in our lives do we have the oppor­tu­nity to devote as much time to a single sub­ject, to a single area of study, as you do as Ph.D. stu­dents. I hope you will reflect on this as one of the most rewarding expe­ri­ences of your lives,” Director said. “You will for­ever carry the North­eastern name with you.”

In the fac­ulty address, Lisa Feldman Bar­rett, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Psy­chology, reminded stu­dents that they have walked in the foot­steps of philoso­phers Plato and Aris­totle, and many men and women who’ve forged the knowl­edge that has shaped Western civilization.

We are here to cel­e­brate you as a cre­ator of knowl­edge, and not just a con­sumer of knowl­edge,” said Bar­rett, whose own research involves studying the basis for human emo­tion. She noted that this road is both “infused with beauty and wrought with frus­tra­tion and struggle,” adding their work opens the poten­tial for a life filled with tremen­dous inspi­ra­tion, trans­for­ma­tion and responsibility.

Cre­ating knowl­edge, she explained, is much more than a per­sonal event; it can also change lives by influ­encing cul­ture or making an impact on one of their own stu­dents one day. “Ideas are pow­erful. People come and go, but ideas don’t. They inspire acts of great­ness,” she said to the crowd in the Cabot Phys­ical Edu­ca­tion Center Cage on campus.