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Vest, Salinas Challenge Grads

By Deborah A. Levinson
Advisory Board

MIT's 127th Commencement exercises took place on May 28th, with the Institute awarding 1,959 degrees to 1,750 seniors and graduate students. Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari addressed the graduating class, and Rabbi Daniel M. Shevitz, in his final official act as an MIT chaplain, gave the invocation.

Salinas delivered a shorter version of his published speech, urging students to consider "the role of technology, and also of morals and ethics," and to learn how to "balance modernization with an environmental and social responsibility."

Salinas, whose term as president ends next year, described how he has implemented changes in the Mexican economy by increasing funds for education, social programs, and pollution prevention. "Education means increased competitiveness, but beyond that, education means better income distribution," said Salinas. He added that "an economic strategy will not be successful without [a] firm social program."

After a brief description of Mexico's war on drugs, which he called "a war we must strengthen," Salinas turned to a discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which sponsors free trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Salinas helped draft the agreement, and he discussed its relationship to the graduating class. "Mexican-American relations may sound far away. But the world that you will now encounter will not let you forget its relevance in your daily life," he said.

Salinas concluded by telling the graduates that they were being "challenged to make a transformation. ... You are either standing at the crest of change, and can increase its impetus, or you can attempt to resist, and eventually be swept away."

Class gift presented

Reshma P. Patel '93, president of the class of 1993, presented the senior class gift of nearly $25,000 in donations to the "Recycle MIT" program. The money will help fund educational programs and purchase of 50 recycling bins.

In her speech on the future of the class of 1993, Patel said, "The skills that we take will make no problem seem insurmountable."

Patel herself received an unexpected gift from MIT when President Charles M. Vest announced that it was Patel's birthday and led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday To You."

Vest delivers charge to graduates

The tone of President Vest's speech matched that of Salinas', with Vest emphasizing a spirit of cooperation and global, not merely national, citizenship. "Economically, socially, politically -- if you want to shape a vibrant and just future, you must learn to cooperate as well as compete," Vest said.

Speaking on diversity, Vest praised the American ability to "thrive on differences of experience, culture, and perspective." He warned, however, that diversity must take a back seat to common goals, saying, "As you shape the future, you must respect and cherish differences, but you must build common purpose and values."

Vest concluded his speech by reiterating his statements on diversity and cooperation, and calling on the graduates to "be citizens of the world. Regain the will to excel."

Also announced at Commencement was the election of 14 new members of the MIT Corporation. Elected life members were Herbert H. Dow II '52, president of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation; Angus N. MacDonald '56, president of Angus MacDonald & Company, Inc.; Mitchell W. Spellman, dean emeritus for international projects at Harvard Medical School; and Raymond S. Stata '58, chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Analog Devices, Inc.

Other new members of the MIT Corporation, elected to five-year terms, are Donald J. Atwood '48; William S. Edgerly '49; Laurence A. Hough SM '72; Brian G. R. Hughes '77; David H. Koch '62; John A. Morefield, Jr. '56; Robert A. Muh '59; Kenichi Ohmae PhD '70; and Darcy D. Prather '91. Alan B. Davidson '89 was elected to serve out the remaining four years of an unexpired five-year term.

Richard A. Jacobs '56 became an ex officio member of the Corporation by virtue of his position as 1993-94 president of the MIT Association of Alumni and Alumnae.

Editor's Note: Reuven M. Lerner '92 contributed to the reporting of this story.