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Larkin reflects on years at Notre Dame, looks to future

Adam Llorens | Friday, May 20, 2011

Valedictorian Edward Larkin will address the Class of 2011 Sunday as the seniors congregate in the Notre Dame Stadium for the last time as a whole during the Commencement Ceremony.

As he reflects on his years at Notre Dame, Larkin said passion for ideas is more important than academic scores.

“Students of our generation are defined by numbers — tests, class ranks, GPAs, ACTs, SATs — this is how we view our life,” Larkin said. “I think going into the real world, people succeed by clinging to an idea and going out and doing it.”

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is an example for this generation, Larkin said, because he did not let these numbers block him from his dream.

“Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, but he had an idea and stuck with it,” Larkin said. “It is not about our rankings. It is about what we think and do … That is what I hope the graduating Class of 2011 will get out of my speech.”

Larkin, a native of East Lansing, Mich., spent four years on campus in Fisher Hall.

“Between Spring Break, football games and random moments on campus, I look back and realize all of the great times I have had with my friends,” Larkin said. “The most unique thing about Notre Dame is the dorm structure we have.”

Larkin said some of his most memorable moments revolve around the close friendships he made within Fisher.

“After four years, you find that you have a lot of really good friends from inside the dorm. I will be friends with these guys for the rest of my life,” Larkin said.

Larkin, a biological sciences major, will graduate with a supplementary major in classical civilization. Larkin recognized two professors as instrumental in his development as a student. The first was Professor Zachary Schafer from the Department of Biology.

“[Schafer] is a smart, exciting guy,” Larkin said. “I took Tumor Cell Biology with him in the 2010 Spring Semester and the way he taught the class was incredible.”

The second was Professor David Hernandez in the Department of Classics.

“I have taken two classes with [Hernandez], including Classical Archaeology,” Larkin said. “He’s one of the best young archaeologists in the world and showed me how truly messy our history is.”

One of the highlights of his college career was his research last summer in New York.

“One of my proudest accomplishments during my time here is the research I conducted concerning developmental neuroscience last summer at Cold Spring Harbor laboratory in Long Island, N.Y.,” Larkin said. “It was a pretty competitive program to get into.”

Outside of the classroom, Larkin also wrote a bi-weekly column for The Observer. His column focused on the intersection of science, technology and society as well as the cultural and social implications of modern science.

“Something I have really enjoyed doing is writing for The Observer,” Larkin said. “I am really proud of everything I have written and I love the feedback I get from each column.”

The Class of 2011 valedictorian will spend his summer in Olympia, Greece, studying cross-cultural interaction through Harvard University. In the fall, he will begin one year of study at the London School of Economics to receive a Master of Science degree in philosophy and public policy.

“I want to concentrate on the policy surrounding end-of-life health care,” Larkin said. “As an aspiring neurosurgeon, I believe the cost of end-of-life health care is a policy we seriously need to rethink.”

Through writing and research, Larkin hopes to change the public outlook on health care.

“This is something that really drives me,” Larkin said. “I want to write for a broad audience to aid in the rational approach to the future by our society.”

After his year in London, Larkin will pursue medical school. Larkin will decide between Columbia University, Yale University and University of Pennsylvania for his medical studies.

“It was a big moment when I got accepted into medical school,” Larkin said. “For anyone who wants to become a doctor, that moment has to be really special.”