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The Inauguration of President Dennis D. Berkey

President Berkey acknowledges the applause of the audience and the stage party (including, at left, Worcester Mayor Timothy Murray and Senator Edward Kennedy, and, at right, former WPI President Edmund Cranch)

Dennis D. Berkey was formally inaugurated as WPI’s 15th president and chief executive officer on May 20 during a ceremony on the campus quadrangle. The historic occasion was witnessed by more than 700 alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff, government officials, and representatives from the business, not-for-profit, and civic communities. The program featured a keynote address by U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy and President Berkey’s inaugural address.

The centerpiece of the ceremony was the formal investiture of the president, led by F. William Marshall, chairman of the WPI Board of Trustees. Marshall was assisted by Robert E. Kinicki, secretary of the WPI faculty and associate professor of computer science, and Kent J. Rissmiller, chair of the WPI Committee on Governance and associate professor of social science and policy studies. The newly installed president was presented with the symbols of his authority, including the university’s original charter and the Presidential Medallion.

Bagpipers and drummers from the Worcester Fire Brigade, who led the processional.

As his first official act, President Berkey bestowed the university’s highest honor, the WPI Presidential Medal, on Senator Kennedy, U.S. Representative James P. McGovern, and WPI Dean Emeritus of Undergraduate Studies William R. Grogan.

In his address, Berkey reflected on the past and looked to the future. He said that he accepted the WPI presidency because of his belief in the power of science and mathematics education to prepare young people for success and achievement in a variety of fields, and because WPI’s approach to education, “centered on science and technology, complemented and enriched by the other fine and liberal arts and by programs in management, seems to me about as good as it gets in higher education.”

The university’s strong sense of community, and the high regard in which the university is held by students, alumni, faculty, and staff, also deeply impressed WPI’s 15th president and encouraged him during his first year on campus. “I hope to be the kind of president who is worthy of an institution as loved as WPI,” he said.

President Berkey and his wife, Catharine, march in the recessional.

In looking at the role of higher education in the coming years, Berkey stressed the importance of leadership and learning and how WPI is well positioned to impart these crucial skills on its talented student body. “I believe that WPI today has a greater opportunity to make a difference in our nation, and in the world, than ever before. This university stands squarely astride the major forces that are changing the world with its project-enriched education centered on science and technology, enhanced and made complete by the ways and works of the arts and humanities, and expanded in perspective by the global program experiences.”

Berkey provided a glimpse of how the university will build on its strengths in the years ahead through a broadening of WPI’s academic programs—including a bachelor of arts degree (to complement the existing bachelor of science) and the development of interdisciplinary programs that link the humanities and arts with technological disciplines through investments in forward-looking research—in the life sciences and fields related to health care and medicine, and through new facilities, including a life sciences research building at Gateway Park, adjacent to downtown Worcester (see page 8), and a sports and recreation complex.

Representing the oldest of the nearly 50 colleges, universities, and learned societies that sent delegates to the ceremony were WPI trustee Howard Jacobson, left, (Harvard University, founded in 1636), and Spencer Timm (College of William and Mary, founded in 1693).

In his keynote speech, Senator Kennedy said, “Dennis is my kind of president. His impressive 30-year career as a professor and administrator promoting excellence makes him an ideal choice to lead WPI, with its strong tradition as a university that continues to raise the bar on excellence year after year.”

He went on to stress the importance of technological education in today’s complex world. “The future is ours to build, and WPI is building it. You’re looking beyond the narrow horizon of today to the needs of tomorrow. WPI is a modern university built on New England tradition, and your graduates are helping all of us build a brighter future.”

Learn more about the inaugural event and read the full text of President Berkey’s address on the inauguration web site.

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Last modified: Aug 25, 2005, 13:42 EDT
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