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President Vest, Nobel Laureate Ting Welcome Incoming Class

Greg Kuhnen -- The Tech
After being escorted by students dressed as Men in Black, President Charles M. Vest formally welcomes the Class of 2001.

By FrankDabek
AsSoCiAtE NeWs EdItoR

A host of significant MIT figures, including President Charles M. Vest and Samuel C. C. Ting, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in physics, were on hand yesterday afternoon in Kresge Auditorium to be the first to officially welcome the Class of 2001 to campus.

The program opened with a skit. Tim, the MIT beaver, sang the MIT Cheer. Then, along came two students posing as Harvard University attendees whose attempt to kidnap Tim was foiled by secret agents, R/O Committee Logistics Manager Wesley T. Chan '00 and Program Manager Tom S. Lee '00, dressed like the heroes of the summer blockbuster Men in Black.

The agents then introduced President Charles M. Vest, as Also Sprach Zarathustra (the music used at the opening of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey) played over loudspeakers. Applause erupted from the assembled students as a video screen displayed a scene from the film and the text: "MIT presents - The Class of 2001."

After welcoming the freshman formally and assuring them that they had the ability to succeed at MIT, Vest spoke about learning at the Institute.

He briefly mentioned the recent Internet hoax, claiming Kurt Vonnegut delivered last year's Commencement address. The fictitious speech contained the advice to students to "enjoy the power and beauty of your youth," Vest said.

Vest next spoke on the topic of what to expect about studying and learning at MIT. He told the new class that the people of MIT are devoted to learning, that hard work is valued at MIT, and that members of the MIT community tackle important issues.

Vest speaks on history

Vest also spoke about the history of science and MIT's place in that history. Speaking of the accomplishments of MIT graduates he said, "The view from today's MIT is amazing."

Vest mentioned the 28 Nobel Prizes and Nobel Memorial Prizes won by MIT alumni, and noted the accomplishments of many others.

Vest emphasized learning as a partnership. He told freshman that their partners were fellow students as well as faculty and senior research staff. He encouraged freshmen to realize that "real life begins today, right here at MIT."

The world-class MIT faculty is maintained because MIT students are "bright, interesting, creative, challenging and fun to work with," Vest said.

The final topic of Vest's speech was diversity. He said that this class is one of the most diverse in America and urged freshmen to exploit this. "Learn from each other; learn together; be proud of who and what you are," he said.

Nobel laureate Ting speaks

Following Vest's speech, Samuel C.C. Ting, professor of physics and winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in physics, spoke about his experiences. Vest introduced Ting as an "extraordinary scientist and leader in the world in general."

Ting presented four stories and lessons learned by an MIT physicist. The stories were of recent discoveries in physics in which Ting was involved. He advised students to take expert opinions with a grain of salt and to retain faith in themselves. "Do what you think is right," he said.

Future scientists should "be prepared for surprises" Ting advised, and students should "enjoy what you are doing and work hard to achieve your goal."

Carter provides recent perspective

After Ting's speech, Vest introduced Undergraduate Association President DedricA. Carter '98, noting that is was time " to stop hearing from old guys."

Carter offered a welcome to freshmen from the upperclassmen and recalled his first days at the Institute. "I braced myself as a firehouse spewed forth water" Carter said of his first experiences at MIT.

He exhorted freshmen to bring themselves into MIT. "Give something of yourself to the Institute," he said.

Carter continued, "You can study together, work together, and build together the future of this nation and other nations."

Carter closed by saying, "Welcome to the MIT family."

Williams offers practical advice

Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams spoke next and offered "brief suggestions on how to make the next four years as happy and productive as possible."

After telling the audience to eat well, and to take care crossing Massachusetts Avenue, Williams urged freshmen to develop themselves fully, including in terms of character, judgement, and courage.

Williams said "Learning in campus life as well as in the classroom" was important for success and echoed Vest's earlier statements by saying, "The real world flows through MIT"