Commencement Speech

Robert Duggan’s UCSB Commencement Speech


INTRO by Pierre Wilzius (Susan & Bruce Worster Dean of Science Div of Mathematical, Life, and Physical Science):

…It is now my great honor and privilege to introduce our 2009 science commencement speaker, Mr. Bob Duggan.

Bob is an alumnus of UC Santa Barbara who studied economics with the class of 1966. The founder of several very successful businesses, he has been described as the consummate businessman and more recently a philanthropist. Bob has many truly admirable qualities including being an extremely hard worker who puts a 150 percent into everything he does. In fact he has been working since the age of 10.

His life story is a testament to the value of education. Bob says that UC Santa Barbara was his launching pad, a place where he made connections with important peers that continue this day. He collaborated with some of these college friends in starting his first business venture while he was still a student. And years later, Bob teamed up with another UC Santa Barbara alumnus on a company called Computer Motion, now Intuitive Surgical, that revolutionized computer-aided and robotic surgery, using technology developed right here at UC Santa Barbara.

Bob’s education helped him develop an ability to think and reason, which has been fundamental in his success, together with his drive and competitiveness. An important part of that success is his desire to work for the greater good and to have an impact through giving.

Bob’s daughter […] and his family are here today and I welcome them. Trish, his wife, and Bob have expanded their impact as excellent parents and have grown their family by adopting six children. They both believe strongly in the importance of giving of their time and talents as well as their money. They are generous contributors to a number of important causes at UC Santa Barbara including the Science and Engineering, Athletics, as well as a Tibetan Studies Programs.

Please join me in welcoming Bob Duncan.

Bob Duggan:

Wow! It has been a while since I’ve been on campus but I certainly remember the days of ‘62 and ‘66. The girls were almost as beautiful. The guys are a little more handsome. The surf was fantastic. We learned quickly that if we ate everything they served at the cafeteria, you’d quickly add 10 or 15 pounds to your body. None of us — none of us recognized at that time the power of the education we were receiving. More than just the academics, with the camaraderie, fellowship and the backup and support of students as you went into an exam, charged with the idea that you would pass it with flying colors, walked out wondering what subject was that. I think we invented that saying ‘Oh My God’. But Friday, Saturday night, salve the wounds of the sorry who had not quite studied hard enough.

Commencement has several meanings. One is a day of celebration for the four years plus a few that you have spent dedicated to a purpose of achieving your degree. Commencement also means a new beginning. So graduates of the class of 2009 in Math, Life Science and Sciences, today marks a new beginning for you. You’ll have questions that other graduates from around the world, all over the world will be asking.  What now does life hold for me? What is it I’ve learned? What is it that I’m going to do? I can assure you ten years from now, whatever you think today, it’ll be a bit different because that’s the way life rolls. Be prepared to adjust and improvised, to recognize that defeat is a stepping stone. Be humble in your successes and always give honor to those that came before you and provided you the hard-won knowledge that you now use to make your own success.

Life has multiple platforms. It’s not just about you. I take an analogy from the human body. I recently took over as CEO of a Northern California biotech company. Quite frankly, it was on a collision course to disaster. That’s why it was available for me to take over. But I recently learned from a book, How We Work by David Macaulay, that the human body is comprised of seventy-five trillion (with a T) cells. I’m sure you’ve not met each one of them. It would be a challenging task if you had to, but did you know that each one of your cells operates, is a gift from its DNA with a pattern of action – you could call it a hat write-up, a job description.

Every single cell has a job to do and every single cell lives within the community of those other cells, much like life with you on campus, off campus and the life you will step into. You are connected. Life is a very symbiotic relationship and these cells coordinate with one another and they communicate with harmony and underneath these cells, which was only discovered within the last 100 years, are the raw material called atoms. The body’s comprise of 24 atoms, 4 of which make up 95 percent of your body. Oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen. You have five trillion trillion atoms in motion, constantly all the time. Atoms comprise energy, your body therefore is always in motion. But as I move through life not knowing those details but fascinated by them when I found out, I recognize that if 75 trillion trillion cells could get along 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 years; what is it that precludes man from getting along? Why is it that man, when he runs low on the energy of communication, trades bullets for words? Why is it that some of us are wealthy, others today live in poverty?

What I would like to share with you, with the knowledge that you have gained in the study you’ve done, by applying your minds and your attention to gather scientific knowledge using, leveraging Francis Bacon’s formula of advancement called the Scientific Method: where you observe a problem, you postulate a solution, you experiment, you observe and you come to your conclusions.

I would like you to apply that Scientific Method to a breath of life not just your job, but apply it to your family, apply it to your relationship with others and ask why hasn’t science, with its unbelievable ability to solve the problems of the material universe and uncover the secrets of nature, why hasn’t it turned its attention to problems such as I just mentioned? Poverty, insanity, criminality. Why not? And if it did what might that outcome be? If that was your intention.

Jules Verne a great scientific writer in 1865 sprang forth the idea from earth to moon. Now I don’t think many people were smoking marijuana during that time but if they were, they would have said where is he coming from? And one hundred years later, we landed on the moon. Why can’t we now, perhaps one hundred years later, land in an environment extraneous, external to our body? It is just as harmonious as the very body we live in. We are but a small group. Seven billion – nothing compared to ourselves. In fact, your human body generates two million cells per second – 120 million per minute. In 10 minutes they’ll be more cells generated by each one of you then beans on this planet. Let’s call it a day for the lack of interest and willingness to get along with our fellow beings. They too deserved four years of fun and sun in an environments such as this, and I believe that with the intention and the power that you have that resides within you, just such a future is on the verge occurring.

This is an interesting experience for me because the last 30 days, I spent many sleepless nights turning and tossing wondering exactly what what I do when this moment came, realizing finally it’s a brief 12 minutes;  it too will pass but before, before it goes “poof” and all disappears, there are few things, a few facts I want to share with you that I haven’t talked away and now I’ll pick them up right now if you bear with me here.

Just the speed that we are achieving in in terms of accessing data. When I was on campus here, ARPANET had just discovered connectivity and I’m proud to say that UCSB was part of the first internet for note internet station west to the Mississippi for…[audible cheer]. Yeah, totally powerful. From that we’ve evolved the ethernet. Well I funded that ethernet company. I went to the three companies that wrote the protocol and asked them if they want to join in with myself and some fellow UCSB engineers and they went “oh no it’s way too early there’s many ways to create connectivity and that one may fail”. But by taking a positive approach, we created our third most ethernet company right here on this campus. We built the first routers for Cisco right here, just offside on this campus and of course then that led to the internet.

In 1982 there were 1000 internet points of connectivity. In 2002 there were 1,000,000 and 2008 there were 1,000,000,000. It can now be said that in the last year more new technical data has been made aware to man than existed in the last five hundred years and the rate of change of new technical data doubles every two years. With this rapid advance and knowledge and with our improved access to information, we are able to solve problems that we’ve just discussed, and it is my prediction that within the next 5 to 10 years science will turn its attention to these problems. These problems are problems of the mind and you will see emerge a science of the mind vetted on the truth, empirically derived and tested in a science of survival. And I assure you that with that breakthrough knowledge, our ability to communicate, share our passions, work with one another to the greater good of the entirety of mankind   will be, will usher in a new era.

And finally I’d like to say that I have been a success in business and money is one judge of success but I want you to know that there’s some other form of pay that far exceeds the value of money and that pay is something that you can take with you here from your UCSB experience because when I say it you will know it already. The ability to communicate with others, the ability to share common goals, the ability to receive the support and words of encouragement, the camaraderie that comes from establishing star high goals and having an idea in glimpse that you will actually be able to achieve them — that form of pay money can’t buy.

I mentioned to some friends the other day that there is a commodity called joy and I can assure you that there’s a method of achieving joy in your life. Simply find another less fortunate than yourself, find another with some need or want that you can satisfy, satisfy that for them. It will not only put a smile on your face but puts a smile on their face and the joy that you receive will be unparalleled. So whenever you feel “Jeez, I’m down on my luck.

I have too few friends”, get outside of that box of thinking, help someone, contribute [to] someone, provide the aid, sucre and support that you’re capable of doing and you will find that the magic of life comes back your way.

And my last word is, when you decide what it is you’re going to do, don’t ponder on it too long. Allow that internal feeling, that conscience that you have to be your judge. The Nexus, the chasm between the material world of science and the spiritual world of conscience can be bridged by understanding that word. I usually like to pronounce it “con science”. It means “with knowledge” science, scienta, sciens, knowledge, knowing. Con science is something within you. It’s the deepest well of knowledge that you have concerning right and wrong. For you, conscience is a very personal thing from the moment of your birth to present time, your conscience is an instant index and guide to what you’re doing. It embodies imagination, evaluation and prediction.

I recently came to the realization that I don’t have a conscience. I am conscience and so are you. Realize that that’s your best asset, make the most of it, carry on as you leave this campus in body but never leave it in conscience. Always stay connected. It’s a wonderful, wonderful, not only physical place, but the power of the energy that you have given it and that you take with you from it, can stay with you and energize you forever. So as you march forward in your future, I wish you the best of success, stability and fulfillment and if everything else goes “poof” remember those words: you are your conscience. Make the most of it.

Thank you very much.