1,794 Enjoy Beautiful CommencementBy Garlen C. Leung
Clear skies prevailed over Killian Court as MIT awarded 2,026 degrees at the 129th Commencement exercises June 9. In her keynote address, Hanna H. Gray, president emeritus of the University of Chicago, advised the 1,794 graduates not to be overly quick to misjudge the effects of change.
"All commentary on education - a subject on which everyone has strong and stubborn opinions - assumes that things are generally getting worse," Gray said. "I think the answer has a lot to do with the ways in which education and its institutions as they are thought about get transformed into emblems of other causes and hopes and fears."
In fact, a lot of the "rhetoric having to do with the decline of higher education" come from "a larger nostalgia and from romantic visions of a golden age that never quite existed," Gray said.
Universities are incorrectly seen as "institutions immune to change," said Gray, regarded by their alumni as "a timeless security against the disintegrations and disappointments, the corruptions and uncertain turnings, of a threatening and fragmenting world."
As an example, Gray cited the widespread belief that at one time "there was greater harmony on our campuses. Whether true or not, it is certainly true that once upon a time, and not so long ago, there was greater homogeneity on our campuses," she said.
With the greater diversity in the student body, our campuses "have come to reflect more fully some of the problematic tensions in our society," Gray said.
"You will of course see changes over time, but if they are the changes required to sustain rather than to swerve from the Institute's essential ethos, that will be a sign of health and strength not of decline," Gray told the graduates.
Vest delivers charge to graduates
As part of the ceremonies, President of the Class of 1995 Mehran Islam '95 presented President Charles M. Vest with the senior class gift - an annual scholarship to fund one or two students in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which has recently come upon hard times.
Vest thanked Islam and the class for the gift. "There are some who ask whether good teaching and research can go hand in hand. Your gift, a UROP scholarship, gives the answer: Indeed they do."
After recognizing the fifty year and twenty-five year classes, the class of 1945 and 1970, Vest delivered his charge to the graduates, offering a wish for a "life well-lived."
Vest emphasized the need to "understand our common stake in the global environment and the global economy. Yet there is a terrifying resurgence of nationalist and ethnic conflict in many countries, and there are truly incredible levels of violence and purposelessness in our own nation."
Also announced at Commencement was the election of 11 new members to the MIT Corporation. Elected life members were Samuel W. Bodman ScD '64, chairman and chief executive officer of the Cabot Corporation and James A. Levitan '48 of Counsel, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom.
The nine members elected to five-year terms are Denis A. Bovin '69, John K. Castle '63, Arthur Gelb ScD '61, Barbara A. Gilchrest '67, John M. Hennessy, Hajime Mitarai SM '65, Antonia D. Schuman '58, R. Gary Schweickhardt SM '73 (outgoing president of the Alumni Association and chief marshall for the academic procession), and Mark Lundstrom SM '93.
Serving on the Corporation in 1995-96 as an ex officio member will be incoming President of the Alumni Association, Karen W. Arenson '70.