The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science


Spong Gives Commencement Address at Hiram

Spong Gives Commencement Address at Hiram

Dr. Mark W. Spong, a world leader in robotics research and education and former dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at The University of Texas at Dallas, will deliver the commencement address this weekend at his alma mater, Hiram College in Ohio.

Spong, holder of the Excellence in Education Chair at UT Dallas, graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Hiram College with a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and physics in 1975.

Dr. Mark Spong“It is an honor and a pleasure to be asked to deliver the commencement address at Hiram. I very much value my time at Hiram and the liberal arts education that I received there,” said Spong, now a professor of systems engineering and electrical and computer engineering in the Jonsson School. “The opportunities and individual attention provided by the faculty were exceptional, and I still keep in close touch with some of the professors that I had in class.

“A liberal arts education gave me a different perspective on the role of technology and innovation in society. It’s not enough to learn the latest technology that may be obsolete in a few years. One must have a broad knowledge and education in the foundations of many areas in order to be creative and to be prepared for lifelong learning. One must also be able to communicate ideas in ways that are accessible to everyone. Hiram gave me those skills and more.”

His address follows Hiram’s custom of an alumna or alumnus sharing success stories to serve as an example for graduating students, said Dr. Lori Varlotta, president of Hiram College.

“I believe that the Hiram Class of 2019 will be fascinated to hear Dr. Spong’s story and the types of opportunities that they might pursue with their newly minted Hiram College degree,” Varlotta said.

Spong’s work has been instrumental in establishing the theoretical foundations of robot control, as well as practical innovations. He has produced several textbooks, including one of the most popular on robot dynamics and control that is still in use after more than 25 years. His results have been implemented at companies and research development facilities around the world. Hardware and software developed by Spong are used to teach robotics at more than 200 universities around the world. He has received numerous recognitions from professional, industry and lay organizations.

Other alumni who have given commencement addresses in recent years at Hiram College include Carol Zelis Perez, director general of the Foreign Service and former U.S. ambassador to Chile and Jan Hopkins, a former award-winning CNN news anchor and multimedia journalist and first female president of the Economic Club of New York.

Spong grew up near Hiram in Warren, Ohio.

“My family has deep roots in Northeast Ohio going back to 1799. One of my great, great, great aunts raised ten children in Hiram and was buried there in 1859,” Spong said. “I grew up admiring Hiram College and its long history and traditions and I did not really give too much consideration to other schools. Hiram was definitely my first choice.”

After graduating from Hiram College, Spong earned a master of science degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University and master and doctor of science degrees in systems science and
mathematics from Washington State University in St. Louis.

Spong began his academic career at Lehigh University and from 1982 to 1984 taught at Cornell University. He then joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he was a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering.

In 2008 Spong was recruited to UT Dallas to lead the Jonsson School, of which he oversaw transformative growth. During his time as dean until 2017, enrollment increased from a little more than 2,700 students to over 7,000 students; four new departments were added; the number of faculty members, annual research expenditures and PhD production doubled; the number of endowed chairs and professorships tripled; two new buildings were added for research and education; and he created the corporate-sponsored, team-oriented capstone experience known as UTDesign®, which already has earned a tradition of winning national capstone and design awards.

Commencement begins at 2 p.m. Saturday at Hiram’s Paul Martin Fieldhouse.

Livestream the address at