Your brain is an “amazing energy-processing machine” that lets you decide who you want to be in the world, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor told Butler University’s Class of 2016 at commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 7, in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Taylor, a renowned brain researcher who suffered a stroke in 1996, said the brain’s hemispheres divide tasks. The left brain is where we get the ability to analyze, master details, judge critically, and think linearly. The right brain is the big picture side—the intuitive, gentle side.
Jill Bolte Taylor delivered the 2016 commencement address.

She said the graduates’ ability to be simultaneously happy about graduation and sad to be leaving Butler—two disparate thoughts—is “all about your brain.”

“Your left brain would rather be right than happy,” she said. “Your right brain would rather be happy than right. I wish for you the perfect balance.”

In the coming year, Taylor will collaborate with the University on One Butler: The Brain Project, a yearlong, campus-wide initiative that will focus on brain health and the impact neuroscience has on all areas of our lives. Taylor and other experts in subspecialized areas of neuroscience will speak throughout the year. A sculpture installation of Big Brains! will be on display in spring 2017.

Butler University graduated 996 students on Saturday, May 7, during commencement ceremonies at Hinkle Fieldhouse—262 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 89 from the College of Education, 257 from the College of Business (now the Lacy School of Business), 173 from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, 95 from the Jordan College of the Arts, and 120 from the College of Communication.

Taylor and former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard received honorary degrees. In a short speech, Ballard pointed out that the graduates had help getting to this point in their lives, and he urged them to “give people the same helping hand.”

“This is a team game, always,” he said.

Associate Professor of Biology Jennifer Kowalski, who gave the faculty address, suggested that the graduates “be fearless and take lessons from each step.” She challenged them to engage in the social and political lives of their community, tackling issues such as climate change and economic injustice.

And Senior Class President Alexandria Antonetti said the Class of 2016 should “be proud of what you accomplished, knowing that you’re just getting started.”

Media contact:
Marc Allan