1824 Students GraduateBy Sarah Y. Keightley
Editor In Chief
The Institute's 128th Commencement exercises took place on May 27, with 1,824 seniors and graduate students receiving 2,034 degrees. The Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, addressed the graduating class.
The Aga Khan, a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, was the first Muslim to speak at an MIT graduation, according to the Commencement program. The Aga Khan began his speech by saying that as a young adult he wanted to attend MIT. Though he was accepted to the Institute 40 years ago, he decided to follow his grandfather's advice and attend Harvard University.
The theme of the Aga Khan's speech was for the graduates to make their life encounters constructive. He used the broader example of conflicting groups in Tajikistan to illustrate his point.
Tajikistan is a former republic of the Soviet Union, and it is unique in that the rural population is highly educated and 90 percent Muslim, the Aga Khan said. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan has faced political, economic, and ethnic problems.
In Tajikistan, three cultures are encountering one another: the ex-Communist world, the Muslim world, and the Western world. The Aga Khan posed the question of how this country could solve its problems without turning into another Bosnia.
"The result of the encounter in Tajikistan may determine much about the way history unfolds over the coming decades, so it is worth thinking a bit about the stance that each of three cultures might take in preparing for this encounter," the Aga Khan said. "That thought might lead one to ask what it would take for this, or any, encounter to be constructive."
The Aga Khan's advice was that each culture should draw on its strengths, have consistent goals, seek overall improvement, and ensure that the transition is humane. He later said that "I hope that these four prerequisites applied equally to the encounter that you are just completing with MIT."
He ended his speech by saying: "Please accept my best wishes for a lifetime of constructive encounters."
Before President Charles M. Vest's traditional charge to the graduates, Ann Chen '94, president of the Class of 1994, presented the senior class gift to Vest. The seniors promised donations totaling about $43,000 to build an information booth in the Student Center.
Vest delivers charge to graduates
In his speech, Vest called the graduating class "my class" because he was `MIT's new freshman president" when the seniors were freshmen.
Vest emphasized the Aga Khan's theme of using cooperation to approach the challenges in the world.
"Economically, socially, politically -- if you want to shape a vibrant and just future, you must learn to cooperate as well as compete," Vest said.
Vest noted that implementing cooperation is not as easy as it sounds because of people's differences. However, the goal is to appreciate these differences, not to remove them, he said.
"As you shape the future, you must respect and cherish differences, but you must build common purpose and values," Vest said.
Corporation names new members
Before the Commencement exercises, the MIT Corporation elected 10 members and an officer at its quarterly meeting. Alexander V. d'Arbeloff '40 chairman and president of Teradyne, Inc., was elected a life member.
The nine members elected to five-year terms were: James A. Champy SM '65, Edie N. Goldenberg '67, Richard A. Jacobs '56, Judy C. Lewent SM '72, Patrick J. McGovern '59, A. Neil Pappalardo '64, Peter M. Saint Germain '48, Richard P. Simmons '53, and Mark Y. Wang G.
Because of his position as 1994-95 president of the MIT Association of Alumni and Alumnae, R. Gary Schweikhardt SM '73 was named an ex-officio member of the Corporation.
Kathryn A. Willmore was elected to replace the late Constantine B. Simonides as secretary of the Executive Committee of the Corporation.