WPI Journal

December 1996

A Symphony of Ideas

The day began with a frenzy of last-minute preparations in the cool morning air and ended with a quiet walk on a warm, moonlit evening along a path lined with candles. Before it was over, WPI would formally install its 14th president and symbolically launch a critical new era in its history. It all transpired under the clearest, bluest skies New England can muster.

The inauguration of Edward A. Parrish on Sept. 20, 1996, was a grand party enjoyed by some 1,800 guests, including delegates from more than 100 colleges, universities, and learned associations and societies. The highlight of the day was the formal installation ceremony, held in Harrington Auditorium and accompanied by the music of three WPI student groups - the Concert Band, the Men's Glee Club and the Alden Voices (women's chorale). It was followed by a luncheon for all under a massive white tent that nearly covered the Quadrangle, and an afternoon symposium in Alden Memorial titled "The New Liberal Education for the Age of Technology." The festivities stretched into the evening as guests gathered in Higgins House for the gala inaugural reception. Moving from room to room in the former home of Worcester industrialist Aldus Higgins, they took in brief musical selections performed by the Medwin String Ensemble, the Men's Glee Club, the Alden Voices and the Jazz Ensemble. Alpha Psi Omega, the dramatic arts honor society, offered a glimpse of the university's active and diverse theater programs.

With the sun setting over the Higgins House lawn, the fading gloaming revealed a half moon, and beside it, the bright disk of Saturn. The plaintive wail of bagpipes rose into the evening air. The piper, Eric Clinton '99, led Ed and Shirley Parrish and the other guests to an elegant dinner in Harrington, while WPI students lighted the way with candles. The dinner concluded with a spirited performance by the student a cappella group Simple Harmonic Motion. Music played an appropriate role in the day's events, as the inauguration of President Parrish proved to be a symphony of ideas. Those ideas form the focus for this issue of the WPI Journal, which is also WPI's 1995-96 annual report. They provide a glimpse into the bold new future shaping up for technological education and the pivotal role WPI will play in shaping that future. In the pages that follow, we present the seminal ideas of the day in the form of President Parrish's inaugural address, the remark s of Claire Gaudiani, president of Connecticut College, and a report on the lively two-hour symposium.

Bold ideas are, perhaps, the most enduring legacy of the inauguration of President Parrish. Along with pleasant memories, they are what the guests took with them as they left Harrington that evening. Stepping out into the night, many stood for a moment to admire the moonlight shimmering on the peaks of the big white tent. Rising sharply into a starry sky, those peaks seemed to be pointing out a new destination for the university, somewhere "out there" in a new frontier of accomplishment and recognition.

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