All smiles: Iyanna Atwell looks to the future—through 2010 lenses—during graduation ceremonies. Les Todd
All smiles: Iyanna Atwell looks to the future—through 2010 lenses—during graduation ceremonies. Les Todd

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Commencement ceremony features microfinance pioneer Yunus
August 1, 2010

While the 2010 commencement exercises took place under cloudy skies, the message of this year's speaker was nevertheless illuminating. Muhammad Yunus, considered the father of microfinance, called on the graduates to dedicate their lives to addressing social problems instead of focusing solely on personal profit. "Each individual, each human being, has enormous power to change the world. You have it. Are you going to use that power to change the world?" he asked.

The ceremony in Wallace Wade Stadium highlighted a weekend of graduation activities across campus. Duke's graduate and professional schools also held commencement ceremonies, with notable guests including FBI director Robert S. Mueller III, who spoke at the law school.

Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker and economist, won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering use of microfinance to assist the poor. "Poverty is not created by poor people," he said in his speech. "Seeds of poverty are not in the person. Seeds of poverty are in the system."

The university awarded honorary degrees to Yunus and four other recipients: Temple Grandin, an autism expert and professor of animal science at Colorado State University; Joel Klein, chancellor of the department of education in New York; Alasdair MacIntyre, senior research fellow at the University of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture; and Sir John Pendry, an English theoretical physicist.

The student speaker was David Distenfeld '10, a psychology major and member of Duke University Improv. More than 3,600 undergraduate and graduate degrees were conferred.