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2021 Graduation Speech – Distinguished Alumnus, Dr. Eleftherios (Terry) E. Gdoutos ’05

Concepts I learned at Roycemore – Stay Curious and Persevere

Thank you Mrs. Finley Odell and thank you to the Roycemore School Board of Trustees for this honor. Thank you to all the Roycemore faculty for devoting your time – and so much more – to inspire your students. And thank you to the Roycemore class of 2021 for without you, there would be no graduation! It is indeed an honor for me to be here today. It has been almost 16 years to the day that I graduated from Roycemore.

I remember some things about that day. I remember feeling nervous about stumbling as I walked on the stage to get my diploma. I remember feeling excited about what comes next – college life: parties, just like I had seen them in the movies! I remember the bittersweet feeling that accompanied the knowledge that I was leaving this environment of so many friends, of so many inspiring teachers and coaches.

And as I reflect on all this, I remember a couple of concepts that have stuck with me since I left the wonderful environment of Roycemore. Two concepts that were so much engrained in the culture here, that I only started realizing how special they are after I graduated.

The first is what I remember as “it’s not about getting a good enough score on the test. It’s about not stopping at the good enough obvious answer. It’s about staying curious and always asking the hard questions. It’s about finding that frontier of experience, of understanding.” So stay curious.

The second concept is about how we react when we reach what seem to be limits, frontiers. And so the second concept is about: “What do we do when we reach those limits?” For example, when I felt as though my legs couldn’t carry me one more stride during soccer practice or when I just couldn’t motivate myself to write a single sentence for an English paper. This is where we persevere.

Through the development of curiosity, I ended up working in many areas of engineering – railyards, chicken farms, corn silos, sports courts, and now in spacecraft. Through the value of perseverance, I stayed up many nights – understanding more, and drinking lots of coffee.

My friends tell me that I often philosophize and can get carried away – but I’ll bring this back to reality now. This very minute, there are two SUV-sized rovers driving around and conducting science experiments on a planet which is about 15 light minutes away right now. 15 light minutes! Talk about a frontier. The names that NASA chose to give to these rovers on the planet Mars are Curiosity and Perseverance.

Congratulations for everything that you have gone through to graduate from this truly unique School, in this very unusual year.  Thank you very much and have the best summer of your lives!

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Dr. Gdoutos is a Principal Research Scientist in Aerospace at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, CA, where he is currently leading a multi-disciplinary team of research scientists, engineers, and graduate students on the design, procurement, fabrication, and integration and testing activities of an on-orbit technology demonstration for space-based power stations in Caltech’s Space Solar Power Project. After graduating from Roycemore in 2005, he studied Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern University, earning two Bachelor of Science degrees, and subsequently obtained his PhD in Aeronautics from Caltech.

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