“Even in the bleakest places, young people crave a reason to hope,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told more than 2,200 graduating students at last Friday’s Commencement ceremony.
Thousands of others — faculty, alumni, family, and friends — filled Killian Court to watch the event.
In the sea of black mortarboards, a few decorations stood out from the crowd: a model of the brain, a crab hat, a stuffed beaver, and a toy space shuttle.
Antonia D. Schuman ’58, the president of the MIT Alumni Association, led the MIT faculty, staff, and speakers to the stage. The Class of 1959, clad in cardinal red 50th reunion blazers, proceeded to their assigned seating on the grassy court. The graduates filed in last, down the center aisle to their seats.
MIT Corporation Chairman Dana G. Mead PhD ’67 opened the Commencement exercises. The audience and faculty then rose for the Invocation by Institute Chaplain Robert M. Randolph and remained standing as the MIT Chorallaries sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Mead welcomed the Class of 1959, here for their 50th reunion, and introduced Governor Patrick as the Commencement speaker.
Patrick’s speech recounted his personal story, including the economic struggles his family faced when he was a child and his account of a White House dinner with his old friend Barack Obama.
Patrick told the robed students: “You, the graduates, must offer that reason. There is a new generation, even we here, who are ready to answer the call for service and sacrifice. That is the opportunity today’s crisis presents. Seize it. And if we do, I am confident that our best days lie ahead.”
His words were inspiring, but not unexpected: Patrick had given essentially the same speech at five other commencements this spring.
A few graduates took advantage of the repetition for some good-natured fun. Two-page worksheets titled “19.COM: Problem Set 1 — Commencement Dynamics,” with a bingo game and Mad Libs for sections of Patrick’s speech, were handed out during the ceremony. Some graduates giggled as they filled out their sheets.
After Patrick’s speech, Oaz Nir, outgoing Graduate Student Council President, gave his salute from the graduate student body.
Next, Class of 2009 President Vivian Tang presented the senior gift to President Susan Joan Hockfield. This year, more than 65 percent of students were counted as contributors to the gift, breaking a participation record for another year.
Along with the class’s donations, a $25,000 “challenge gift” was contributed by Martin Y. Tang SM ’72. The gift will find online video lectures for 5.111 (Principles of Chemical Science) on MIT OpenCourseWare.
After the presentation, Hockfield delivered her charge to the graduates.
“Of course, we are really going to miss you here,” said Hockfield, “But the world needs you right now … I join with our faculty, staff, alumni and students in wishing you the very best of success in your adventures ahead.”
As the 143rd Commencement Ceremony came to an end, the graduates left Killian Court, serenaded by the Chorallaries, for a reception on Kresge Oval.