Cisco's Chambers, Apple legend Wozniak among techiest Class of 2011 commencement speakers

Class of 2011 could learn a few things from tech execs, including high-profile women at Google and Facebook

Actor/Twitter powerhouse Charlie Sheen might be the people's choice for commencement speaker at some colleges this spring, but many schools are lining up a more serious A-List of technology industry bigwigs to send the Class of 2011 off into the world.

Cisco CEO John Chambers, who has done his share of soul searching of late in light of some rare missteps, will offer words of wisdom to Duke University graduates on May 15

Among those words might be "make decisions faster," something that Chambers said in a recently distributed company-wide memo he wishes Cisco had done in terms of attacking newer markets more aggressively. The Cisco chief might also have a few things to say about making transitions, as the students will do upon graduation.  Cisco is grappling with a transition as sales of its bedrock switches and routers lag. 

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Chambers attended Duke's School of Engineering in 1967 before transferring to West Virginia University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in business and a law degree. He earned his MBA from Indiana University.

Up north at Michigan State University, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will deliver a commencement address on May 6.   "Technology plays a critical role in the education of our students, so it's fitting that Steve Wozniak will send our graduates off to careers that have been influenced by his innovations," said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. 

The school is also quick to point out his other, uh, contributions: "His television appearances include reality shows, 'Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,' ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars' and 'The Big Bang Theory.'"

Wozniak is best known for starting Apple in 1976 with Steve Jobs (although the exact date of the founding is open for discussion, as we recently reported). But like Chambers, he too can talk to graduating students about making transitions. Wozniak is currently chief scientist for Fusion-io,  a flash storage vendor that has piled up venture capital funding over the last couple of years.  Wozniak also grabbed headlines recently discussing the transition to tablet computers, which he called the PC for "normal people." 

Barnard College really scored big, nabbing a top Facebook executive as its commencement speaker! 

Oh, it's not that Facebook executive? As it turns out, Facebook COO and former Google executive Sheryl Sandberg, is probably the much more appropriate choice to do the honors on 17th at the all-women's liberal arts school in New York City. Unlike Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Sandberg stuck it out at Harvard and earned bachelor's and master's degrees.

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Another high profile woman in technology, Google's Marissa Mayer, will deliver the commencement address at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., on May 15. 

Mayer was Google's first female engineer and now serves as VP of consumer products. She is the latest in a long line of Google commencement address speakers, including ex-CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone will return to his roots, delivering a commencement address at Babson College's undergraduate ceremony on May 14. Babson is located in Wellesley, Mass., where Stone grew up before developing the social networking site.

Nearby Franklin W. Olin College, a small engineering school based in Needham, Mass., has named Cornell University graduate Jeff Hawkins, the founder of Palm Computing and co-founder of Handspring, as its commencement speaker for a ceremony to be held May 15. 

Hawkins, who now focuses on neuroscience, will have no one but himself to blame if half the new graduates are looking down at their handheld gadgets while he's delivering his talk. He might be hard pressed to find a lot of Palm devices in the crowd that day, but at least Hawkins might comfort himself by sharing a few history lessons with the new graduates about where all those little devices really came from.

The University of California at Berkeley must like Qualcomm chief Paul Jacobs, who earned three degrees at the school and in 2006 was the commencement speaker for the school's College of Engineering. He'll be delivering this year's address for Cal Berkeley on May 14, emphasizing the rewards of entrepreneurship -- something the student publication "The Daily Clog" skews a bit, pointing out that this Jacobs' dad is actually the one who started Qualcomm.

Some schools have yet to name their speakers, but feel free to let us know if other technology industry luminaries will be delivering commencement talks at upcoming ceremonies.

No one has invited me to deliver a commencement speech, but I must just deliver a commencement tweet or two this year.

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