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Tsongas to speak at Commencement

By Linda D'Angelo

MIT has named former US Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-MA) as the 1989 Commencement speaker, President Paul E. Gray '54 announced last week. The ceremony is set for June 5.

Tsongas was recently appointed chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Regents of Higher Education.

Born and raised in Lowell, MA, Tsongas received a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College and a law degree from Yale University. Following graduation he volunteered for the Peace Corps, represented Lowell on the city council, and served as Middlesex County Commissioner. His political career culminated in 1978 when he was elected to the US Senate.

Diagnosed with lymph cancer in 1984, Tsongas decided not to seek re-election to a second term as senator and underwent successful treatment for the cancer. He then became a partner in the Boston law firm of Foley, Hoag and Eliot, and a strong voice against unrestrained development on Cape Cod.

It was this impressive record which led Gov. Michael S. Dukakis to describe Tsongas as "one of the most able and respected citizens of Massachusetts," according to a MIT press release. With this, Dukakis appointed Tsongas chairman of the state Board of Regents of Higher Education, which sets the policy that governs the 180,000 students enrolled in the state's 29 colleges and universities.

In his capacity as chairman, Tsongas has drawn a clear parallel between economics and education; "this country is facing a descent into second-class economic status [and] the only way out of it is education." For this reason, Tsongas concerns himself with "the question of whether this state wants quality, first-class higher education," he said.

Tsongas' new appointment -- coupled with his past commitment to education, economic development and social issues -- made it "wonderfully appropriate for him to address" MIT, Gray noted in the press statement, since "MIT has been concerned with those same issues for more than 128 years." Like Tsongas, MIT "is credited with contributing widely to economic development generally and to the Commonwealth in particular," Gray added.