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Facebook Executive to Barnard Graduates: “This world needs you to run it”

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg delivered the keynote at Barnard College’s 119th  Commencement ceremony.  She also received the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the College’s highest honor, alongside:  Sylvia Rhone, President of Universal Motown Records; Roberta Guaspari, renowned advocate for music education in public schools; and artist Jenny Holzer, celebrated for contributions to the American conceptual art movement.

View photos on Picasa.  Photos by Barnard College/Asiya Khaki and Dorothy Hong.

Watch the full ceremony and more videos here

Read the Barnard Medal of Distinction citations for Sheryl Sandberg, Sylvia Rhone, Robert Guaspari and Jenny Holzer

Addressing approximately 600 members of Barnard’s Class of 2011, Sandberg said, “Don't let your fear overwhelm your desire.  Let the barriers you face be external not internal.  Fortune does favor the bold and I promise that you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you try.”  Read the Transcript.

Barnard President Debora L. Spar, who presided over the ceremony, conferred the Barnard Medals of Distinction, presented the degree candidates, and spoke to the crowd of approximately 3,500 graduates, family members, faculty, and staff of Barnard.  “Make your choices as consciously and as willfully as you can,” said Spar.  “Choose wisely when you can and most importantly, choose consciously, remembering that having the ability to shape your own lives also gives you an obligation to make those lives matter.”

The graduates also heard from Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald ’81, chair of the Barnard Board of Trustees and CEO of the Alberleen Group, as well as Senior Class President Reni Calister '11, SGA President Lara Avsar '11 and Anna Ziering '11.

In recent years, Barnard’s Commencement speakers have included U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and legendary actress Meryl Streep.

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About the Medalists

As Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg oversees the company’s business operations including sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications. Prior to Facebook, Sandberg was Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, where she built and managed the online sales channels for advertising and publishing and operations for consumer products worldwide. She was also instrumental in launching Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm. Before Google, Sandberg served as Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton where she helped lead the Treasury’s work on forgiving debt in the developing world. Sandberg serves on the boards of The Walt Disney Company, Starbucks, Women for Women International, the Center for Global Development and V-Day.  Sandberg was named as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune and one of the 50 Women to Watch by The Wall Street Journal.

Sylvia Rhone, President of Universal Motown Records, is generally regarded as the most influential female executive in the history of the music business.  Under her tutelage, Universal Motown has reinvigorated both roster and staff, with Ms. Rhone fusing the label’s storied legacy with a diverse repertoire of best selling contemporary artists, including Stevie Wonder, Lil Wayne, Drake, Nelly, Akon, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, Erykah Badu, Kelly Rowland, and others.  Previously, Rhone served as the recording industry’s only African American and first female Chairman/CEO while at Elektra Entertainment Group, where she transformed the boutique label into one of the most eclectic rosters in the history of the music business.  Born and raised in New York City's historic Harlem, Rhone has been honored with numerous awards during her career, both from the music industry and the greater community, including the 2004 Turner Broadcasting Trumpet Award which heralds the accomplishments of distinguished African Americans from around the world. 

Roberta Guaspari, a renowned advocate for music education in public schools, is the co-founder of non-profit Opus 118-Harlem Center for Strings.  Her passionate struggle to keep music instruction alive in Harlem's public schools has inspired two films: Small Wonders, a 1996 documentary produced by Allan Miller, and Miramax’s 1999 feature film, Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep; both films received Academy Award nominations. Guaspari has received numerous awards and honors including the Petra Foundation’s annual award to “recognize and encourage unsung individuals who are making distinctive contributions to human freedom.” She was named Woman of the Year in 1994 by CBS This Morning and also was the recipient of the Heroes for Today Award by Readers Digest and the Outstanding Achievement Award by SUNY Fredonia Alumni Association.

Jenny Holzer is an award-winning American conceptual artist whose main focus is the use of words and ideas in public spaces. Holzer’s recent use of text ranges from silk-screened paintings of declassified government memoranda detailing prisoner abuse, to poetry and prose in a 65-foot wide wall of light in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center.  With her renowned series of works, “Truisms . . . ,” Holzer has compiled a series of statements and aphorisms (“truisms”) and has put them forward in a variety of mediums. Since 1996, Holzer has organized public light projections in cities worldwide.  Holzer has had exhibitions at major museums including the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin in 2001; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston in 1997; Dia Art Foundation, New York in 1989; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1989; and the Whitney Museum in 2009.