Middlesex was honored to have Kevin Systrom, Middlesex Class of 2002, as the 2013 commencement speaker. Kevin is the co-founder and CEO of the popular mobile photography app “Instagram,” which has attracted over 100 million active users in just under three years. Instagram’s filtered photos have been a vehicle for users to share more than 5 billion photos of everything from everyday shots of food and friends to real-time news reports and brain surgeries. Alongside other social media platforms, Instagram has changed modern communication and transformed photography.
Kevin attended Stanford University where he majored in Management Science and Engineering, and had his first taste of the startup world as an intern at Odeo, which later became Twitter. He spent two years at Google working on Gmail, Google Reader, and then on the Corporate Development Team.
At Middlesex, Kevin was the recipient of the Frederick Winsor Book Prize for academic initiative and the inaugural Lawrence Terry Book Prize for distinguished contributions to the life of the school. He provided the graphic design for both school newspapers, and founded and managed the school’s radio station. On his College Office questionnaire, Kevin shared a passion for photography as a vehicle for self-expression. He said, “I am firm believer that everyone has a different metaphorical lens through which they view the world and I am merely showcasing mine. Perhaps along the way, I will inspire others to look at the world in a new way.”
This spring, Kevin has been featured in Vanity Fair and included as one of TIME Magazine’s top 100 most influential people in the world.
Thinking back to his own Middlesex graduation day 11 years ago, Kevin remembered one speaker noting that the event would be the last time his classmates would all be together in one place. Though he somehow doubted the truth of that statement at the time, he has realized since that graduation was indeed a special moment – and he has wondered what he would have said to his class back then, given the experience and perspective that he has today. With that idea in mind, he offered the class of 2013 a few pieces of advice, telling the seniors to take life slowly and explore what they love; to take risks (though not irresponsible ones) that will push and challenge them; and to make the effort to maintain their strong friendships, for “life is a team sport” that requires the support of great friends.
“So, as we sit here together today, likely the last time together as one single group, soak it in,” Kevin said in closing. “Remember the next 10 years of your life are some of the most exciting years to come. You’ll learn so much about yourself by navigating the world around you, so take it slowly. You’ll surprise yourself by how far you can go and how happy you can be, so take the risks to get there. And none of what I said will be possible without the love and the friendship of the people sitting with you today, so stay in touch.”