Spring 1998

A Daunting Task

The handwritten message was meant as a friendly reminder, but it struck a note of panic in me. "The Journal's coming up on its 100th anniversary," it said. "That's an opportunity few editors will ever have."

An opportunity, yes, but a ponderous one. As John D. Rockefeller once said, "every opportunity implies an obligation." As editor of the WPI Journal for the past decade, I've done my best to fulfill my obligation to tell readers what they want to know about WPI and its people. But doing justice to a century's worth of reporting about the University by dozens of dedicated editors, writers, photographers and artists? That would be a daunting task, if not an impossible one.

At the kind suggestion of the late Sam Mencow '37, then chairman of the Alumni Publications Committee, I organized a committee to think about the best way to observe the close of the Journal's first century. The committee members, Sam, Bill Grogan '46, Bob Labonté '54, Doug McKeown '41 and Roger Perry '45, came up with a number of excellent ideas. For example, they suggested telling the story of WPI, decade by decade, through the eyes of the Journal. They also thought it might be a good idea to look at how the University and its graduates have changed over the span of the Journal's existence.

In the end, I chose my own peculiar route. While deeply indebted to the ideas and support of the committee, and profoundly grateful for the many hours they spent digging through 100 years of the magazine in search of interesting stories, I take full responsibility for the article that begins on page 5.

To select from among the thousands of individuals the Journal has covered, I had to make some tough choices.

As my predecessors in the editor's chair have done so well over the years, I tried to put myself in the place of Journal readers and ask what would most appeal to them. Would they be drawn into an essay on WPI's history, a subject tackled so brilliantly in Mildred Tymeson's Two Towers and in Seventy Years of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, written by beloved Journal editor Herbert Taylor '12? Would they care to peruse a chronicle of the Journal itself, learning about its various incarnations and about the people behind its uncounted words and pictures?

The answer to both questions is probably "yes." And yet, I kept returning to what the Journal has always done best: telling interesting stories about people. In every survey the magazine has ever done, readers have said what they like most is reading about other alumni. With that as a starting point, I culled from the pages of the magazine the stories of 100 graduates. Retelling these tales seemed the most appropriate way to pay tribute to the Journal and the role it has played in the lives of generations of WPI alumni.

To select from among the thousands of individuals the Journal has covered, I had to make some tough choices. Many, many worthy candidates did not make the final cut. It is worth making special note of one decision I made that helped narrow the field. I chose to include in this article only what the Journal once called "completed careers." I recognize that my decision excludes many distinguished individuals who continue to make their mark on the world. Regrettably, this choice also produced a final field without women; since WPI has been graduating women for less than three decades, their careers are far from completed.

Having said all that, I sincerely hope you enjoy this special 100th anniversary issue and the panoramic view of WPI alumni it presents. As always, I welcome your comments.

Michael W. Dorsey

[WPI] [Contents] [Top]

Last Modified: Thu June 10 11:52:51 EDT 1999