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Duncan L. Niederauer ’81 helps Class of 2013 graduates bask in glow of No. 13

By Tim O'Keeffe on May 19, 2013

Many seniors wore the No. 13 on their mortarboards throughout commencement weekend. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

The No. 13 was front and center at today’s commencement exercise as members of the Class of 2013 were celebrated for their achievements and their unique link to the number that is part of university lore.

Commencement speaker Duncan L. Niederauer ’81, chief executive officer of NYSE Euronext, congratulated the 685 graduating seniors and shared what he called his “13 for 13,” which were powerful prescriptions for success.

“This could be the start of something big; it is going to be what you make of it,” he told the graduates assembled in Sanford Field House. “Fasten your seat belts. No one is going to give you an instruction manual; but great news, your generation doesn’t need one. Nothing you buy any more comes with an instruction manual.”

Niederauer gave voice to what he called the power of the American dream and how that concept thrives today.

He shared a story of how Snoop Dogg (a k a Snoop Lion), the rapper, actor, and entrepreneur, was invited to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange a couple years back.

Another entrepreneur asked Snoop Dogg if he had ever dreamed of being invited to Wall Street for such an occasion, and all Snoop Dogg said was, “Why not?”

That epitomizes the American dream, said Niederauer, who said he was the product of that same dream.

“This is the land of opportunity. Find me another country in the world where the son of immigrants can become the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange three quarters of a century later. It is something to be proud of.”


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Niederauer said he was able to come to Colgate in 1976 through the hard work of his parents and the financial aid he received through the generosity of those who came before him.

His first job after Colgate, running a restaurant in Atlanta, was thanks to an alumnus. His first foray into the financial world, a job at Goldman Sachs, where he would spend 22 years, was made possible through the efforts of another alumnus.

“Keep Colgate close to you,” he told the graduates.

In summarizing his “13 for 13,” Niederauer said:

Duncan L. Niederauer ’81, chief executive officer of NYSE Euronext, delivers his remarks at commencement. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

“Pay more attention to your self worth than your net worth. Spend time with people who tell you what you can do not what you can’t do. Dare to do great things and hold yourself accountable to make a difference in the lives of others. Participate, don’t spectate, and have the feelings of victory and defeat, it will make you a stronger person.”

Niederauer said the No. 13 resonates in a variety of ways for him and his family. He and his wife, Alison, are leading the effort to build a new school in New Jersey for students with autism and other special needs.

Many people told Niederauer the project was too ambitious and that it couldn’t happen. He said it will happen, and the opening of the expanded Newmark School will be held on, of all days, Friday the 13th — Sept. 13, 2013.

“Why not?” he asked in closing his speech to thunderous applause from the crowd.

Niederauer received an honorary degree at today’s ceremony, as did baccalaureate speaker The Very Reverend Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco; Jeff Fager ’77 P’06, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes;Jill Lepore, David Woods Kemper Professor of American history at Harvard University and staff writer for The New Yorker; and Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO, founder, and president of Chobani.

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2 Comments



  • Drew Maddock '70 said:

    It was an extremely good commencement address. It met all my requirements — not too long, well spoken, humorous when appropriate, and about a serious subject. I’d call that subject “Life and What To Do With It.” Good advice in 13 installments (but brief!) by Duncan Niederauer.

    President Herbst’s remarks about the benefits and detriments of living in our own little technological bubble where the information we hear only reinforces our own narrow perspective instead of participating in a larger social dialogue which includes other points of view was first-rate, as well.

    The whole ceremony was done extremely well, I thought.

    Drew Maddock ’70, P ’13 (Father ’44, Brother ’72)




  • Bruce Hunter '79 said:

    Best graduation speech I have ever heard. This was a day for the graduates and the address was perfect – short and humorous but full of impact, meaning and great advice for the Class of 2013. Very well done!

    Bruce Hunter ’79, P10, P13