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“A school is not a factory. Its raison d’être is to provide opportunity for experience.”
—J. L. Carr, British novelist, The Harpole Report

Profiles of graduates are, in my opinion, one of the most interesting features in any alumni magazine; professional passions can tell you much about people. From a university’s perspective, these profiles fulfill a vital purpose: alumni are its best ambassadors. They elevate the name of the institution through the work they do; they are the “sales force” that trumpets the benefits of its education, thereby ensuring its future.

Before I arrived on campus last summer to become the editor of Transformations, I confess I made certain assumptions about WPI and its alumni. Because of the size of the school and its relatively small alumni base, I thought there would be a fairly limited number of interesting alumni to profile. Too, because I was hooked into WPI’s history as a polytechnic institute, I assumed that most, if not all, alumni would be engineers, scientists, or techno- savvy geeks.

It wasn’t long before I learned that a smaller university doesn’t necessarily translate into a smaller world for our alumni. I discovered just the opposite is true: where our alumni find themselves in the world is, well, the world. But, more interesting than where our alumni find themselves in their professional lives is finding out what they are doing. Quite simply, a WPI education offers the right mix of learning and experience, of study and opportunity, in preparing graduates to make their mark in the world in ways that truly make a difference in the lives of millions.

This issue of the magazine highlights a few of these individuals. Richard Hansen ’76, a leader in the field of solar electrification, has lit up homes and helped small businesses run equipment in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and other developing countries. John Gusha ’80 has brought together local dentists and nonprofit agencies to provide routine dental care for children from Worcester’s low-income families. Robert Diamond ’56, who holds an engineering patent on Caller ID, has developed technologies that enable us to keep a virtual eye on our vacation homes, our kids, and even our aging parents. And Michelle (Petkers) Gass ’90, a senior vice president at Starbucks, developed the successful Frappuccino line of beverages and has contributed significantly to the coffee giant’s success.

But it’s not just our alumni who are making a difference in the world. WPI’s strong outreach to minorities in Worcester’s middle schools piques their interest early on in engineering’s diverse disciplines. The university’s vigorous international recruitment and enrollment has brought stellar students to campus, including Zimbabwe native Batsirai Mutetwa ’07, who plans to use her biochemistry degree as a stepping-stone on the path to becoming a pediatrician.

There’s much more in this issue, including Professor Ed Ma’s exciting work in developing technology that could become the heart of a hydrogen refueling network for cars within the next decade and a behind-the-scenes look at how WPI’s Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division ensures the safety and security of hundreds of students who study in our project centers.

I hope you enjoy reading about the difference WPI makes in the world. As always, I welcome your comments on this issue.

Amy E. Dean
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Last modified: May 04, 2005, 10:48 EDT
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