On Wednesday, May 9, 2007, Northrop Grumman Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ronald Sugar was presented with the award for Outstanding Contributions to Academic Excellence by the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Dr. Sugar was introduced by Dr. Shrikanth Narayanan, Professor in Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California. Below are Dr. Sugar's remarks.
Ron Sugar Awarded by the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
Thank you, Dr. Narayanan. And thank you very much to this society. Phi Kappa Phi is an extraordinary society with an extraordinary membership. From politicians to scientists to artists, Phi Kappa Phi society members are people of accomplishment and contribution. Best of all, those of you being inducted today are now members of the club. Congratulations to you and your families!
So why am I hear before you today? Being here reminds me of a stubborn old farmer who, several years ago, entered his mule in the Kentucky Derby. The other race horse owners were baffled. They asked him if he really thought his tired, old mule could win the Derby. The farmer thought for a bit, shook his head and said no. He doubted his mule could win. But he knew the association with race horses would do his mule some good. So, like that mule, I am honored now to be associated with people of such accomplishment – people like you.
And I am especially pleased to be given this honor by a fellow engineer, Dr. Narayanan. And, ironically, a fellow UCLA Bruin, too. When I was an engineering undergraduate at UCLA, my grade point average qualified me for Phi Beta Kappa. I was carefully considered for membership by that society but I was rejected, as they told me, “You are an engineer, and you engineers already have your own honor society.” So, I never made it into Phi Beta Kappa, but I did make it into Phi Kappa Phi! Your society is not only prestigious – it is sure a lot more hospitable.
Prestigious, hospitable, and important – important because the business of this society is the promotion of learning. And learning is the most important source of hope in our world. There is scarcely a problem today that could not have been mitigated early on but for a lack of timely knowledge.
Different motivations can drive learning – the aspiration for a better life; the desire to make more money; or just responding to the expectations of your family. But this society, Phi Kappa Phi, recognizes the highest and purist of all motives – learning for the love of learning. As a motive to learn, inspiration endures long after a particular need has been satisfied.
I’ll share one personal experience with you. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the surprising launch of the Russian satellite, Sputnik – an event which shook the world and brought on the space race. I still recall it vividly. It was 1957. I was only nine years old, but I was instantly captivated by the idea of space and by space travel. I wanted to be part of the space age, to learn about it, to make a difference for our nation and for the world. I was inspired to learn from that moment on, and I never stopped.
So again thank you, Dr. Narayanan. Congratulations inductees. And thank you Phi Kappa Phi. Thank you for the work you do here at USC promoting the love of learning as a source of hope for humanity.