The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 37.0°F | A Few Clouds

Vest, Annan Depict a Challenging Future at 131st Commencement

By Jean K. Lee
Associate News Editor

After a week of clouds, sunny skies prevailed Friday, June 6 as graduates, families, and guests gathered in Killian Court for the 131st commencement. A total of 2,280 degrees were awarded, including 1,023 bachelor of science and 1,257 advanced degrees.

President Charles M. Vest began his remarks with a tribute to Paul E. Gray '54, his predecessor as president and the outgoing chairman of the MIT Corporation. Gray was presiding over commencement for the last time.

In his charge to the new graduates, Vest emphasized the importance of taking professional and social responsibility in a changing world driven by three forces: science and technology, internationalization, and shifts in demography

"Take your education, your talent, and your energy and build us a nation and a world community that consider knowledge a gift to be shared, a healthy planet a place to be cherished, and human dignity and opportunity fundamental conditions to be enjoyed by all people," Vest said.

Vest sees a future with new goals

Vest emphasized the need for society to rebalance the roles of private and public sectors in a world with a decreasing trust in government and which is moving towards privatization. "Increasingly, industry will be called on to address issues of common good that extend beyond the traditional principles of market-driven efficiency and shareholder value, and you will be charged with seeing this through," he said.

Vest outlined three areas which would provide opportunities for achieving this goal: "creating - and sharing - scientific and technical knowledge for the greater good, exercising responsibility for our environment, and addressing the problems and opportunities of a changing population in America and elsewhere."

Vest added that colleges and universities play an important role in addressing the dilemmas posed by changing population by enrolling students from diverse backgrounds. He urged continued support for affirmative action, and explained why MIT continued to champion the program. "We have done so because of our conviction - born of practical experience - that this diversity makes educational sense," he said.

"Students learn by encountering new ideas and new people- not by reaffirming what they already know," he said, "It is our responsibility to educate all those who will contribute to our society's well-being."

He reminded the audience, however, that "we still have far to go until we become a nation fully integrated at every level and in every aspect. Whatever your view on how we reach that goal, we must reach it. We look to you as citizens and leaders to create effective ways to do so."

Annan urges support for UN

In his keynote address, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan SM '72, a MIT Sloan Fellow in 19711972, urged the new graduates to help and take the lead in supporting the United Nations.

Annan spoke of the progressive steps taken by the UN to "firm up the grounds on which the project of international organization rests."

Although "much remains to be done," Annan said, "only a decade ago the achievements I have just enumerated seemed unimaginable. Now they are real."

Constantine Morfopoulos G, outgoing president of the Graduate Student Council, led a salute to MIT from the graduate student body.

Senior class president Pardis Sabeti '97 presented Vest with the senior gift- a record-breaking fund to be used for student activities.

Following the commencement ceremonies, an outdoor reception hosted by President and Mrs. Vest was held for the graduates and their guests.

Alumni and guests enjoy exercises

Grand Marshal DuWayne J. Peterson Jr. '55, president of the MIT Association of Alumni and Alumnae, offered congratulations to to the new graduates on behalf of the classes of 1947 and 1972, the 50 year and 25 year classes, respectively, welcoming them to the world of alumni.

Many enjoyed this year's commencement ceremonies. "The exercises went very smoothly," said Gayle Fitzgerald, the director of conference services and events, who coordinated this year's ceremonies. "The weather certainly was a positive influence," she said.

"It was beautifully run," said Kenneth A. Marshall '47. "It was fun and exciting to be in it. It brings back memories." The graduation gowns were "very colorful costumes- more color than I remember," he said.

Others reminisced about their own graduation. "It's amazing how things have changed," said Ginny F. Ean '47. She especially noted the increase in the number of women graduates as one of only a handful of women during her own days at MIT. "It's great to see more women in the sciences," she said. "It's incredible - even the class president was a young woman."

"I'm glad to reminisce about my own [commencement]- what a great day it is to graduate," said John J. Murphy '47.

"All of those who help make commencement happen did an extraordinary job. There are literally hundreds who make it happen," Fitzgerald said.