Tufts professor Sol Gittleman is an expert on Yiddish culture and baseball history, not motivational speaking. On Sunday, Gittleman addressed more than 3,000 Tufts University students awaiting graduation, and he left out the pep talk.
"Students at Tufts don't need to hear much motivation; what characterizes them is their energy, their curiosity and their willingness to take on a lot of things they never seem to stop," said Gittleman, the day's commencement speaker. "They always seem to go to the library. There's a world out there that everybody's got to understand."
Families cheered as 1,348 undergraduate and 740 graduate students were granted degrees on a sunny day on the West Somerville and Medford campus.
Reaction to Gittleman's selection as commencement speaker among students was mixed, some wanted a more high-profile figure but others were happy to have Gittleman, who served as provost, the highest academic officer in the school, for 20 years.
"Professor Gittleman was a good choice for commencement speaker," said Adam Weldai, a graduate majoring in American Studies. "He's one of us, that's what made the speech so special. We knew that after the speech he wasn't going anywhere."