Wire, Vol. 10, No. 3 - Fall 1996

Sun shines on inauguration

WPI formally inaugurated its 14th president, Edward A. Parrish, in a communitywide celebration marked by pomp and circumstance on Sept. 20‹a sunny, summery day. Dignitaries were led into Harrington Auditorium by a procession of about a hundred representatives of colleges and universities from the U.S. and Europe in their university regalia. Visitors from Oxford University, the oldest university present (established in the 12th century), were first in line, followed by faculty, trustees, student groups and alumni. It was the first of a triple bill of events that also included a symposium of business and education leaders who discussed "A New Liberal Education for the Age of Technology," and Homecoming Weekend activities.

Parrish pledged to uphold the standards established by his predecessors and to do his utmost to maintain the high quality of WPI. "My confidence in accepting this charge is fortified by the presence of a strong and dedicated faculty, a committed staff, and loyal students and alumni who together provide the administration an able partner with which to meet the demands and to seize the opportunities of the future," he said.

In her keynote address, Connecticut College President Claire L. Gaudiani noted Parrish's leadership as a widely published engineer and scientist, teacher and administrator who is prepared to bring a unique set of skills and a unique kind of wisdom to WPI. Gaudiani also commented on where technology has the power to go. "We are entering an age of exploration‹a new period in human history‹where an education that connects the practice of science and technology with the deeper understanding of human beings and culture will be the best education for the leaders of an age of exploration."

She noted that teachers are not merely lecturers, or even teachers, but fellow explorers with their students. "Education will now have to engage students and faculty with the real world as we move forward," she said. "Education will have to engage students with multiple cultures. The directions already so well-developed in WPI's project-based education are exactly right for the age of exploration, and this institution must be congratulated for its foresight."

In his remarks, Parrish reminded the audience that there are clarion calls for massive changes in higher education. "Industry has been especially vocal, asserting that there is too much science in technological curricula," he said. "The belief is that graduates are well-grounded in theory but are unprepared for practice. Furthermore, there are calls for a broad technological education, what I refer to as Œthe new liberal education,' to enable graduates to adapt to new technologies and unforseen branches in career paths. The rapidly growing global marketplace is resulting in growing competition among nations and now adds a new dimension to education requirements."

These requirements have led to specific recommendations, he said. "Among those repeated most often are the following: incorporate hands-on experience into programs rather than relying just on the classroom; develop teamwork as well as individual capabilities; improve students' communication skills; provide the broad education necessary for students to understand the impact of technology in a global societal context; and instill a recognition of the need for and an ability to engage in lifelong learning. I believe WPI has a special responsibility in helping to meet these challenges."

Parrish believes that WPI can be recognized as a world leader among comprehensive, technological institutions in providing the new liberal education. "Regional and specialized accreditation bodies are bringing their standards into conformance with these recommended changes, in effect reflecting key attributes of the WPI Plan," he said. "This fall, WPI will participate in one of two experimental evaluations being conducted by the agency that accredits engineering programs. These visits will be the basis for case studies to be used for training purposes within the agency and by other institutions that will undergo evaluations in the future."

Provost John F. Carney III, James P. Hanlan, associate professor of history and secretary of the faculty, and Chrysanthe D. Terwilliger, the Norton Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, formally installed Parrish. Carney and Hanlan placed the presidential medallion around the president's neck; Terwilliger presented him with the WPI Charter.

The WPI Concert Band played Fanfare for the Future during the installation, a work composed by Frederick W. Bianchi, associate professor of music, especially for the occasion. A luncheon for all attendees followed on the Quadrangle, where a big white tent reminiscent of the new Denver airport covered the entire area.

The symposium, in Alden Memorial, featured a discussion about what colleges and universities must do to prepare their graduates for life in an increasingly complex technological world.

That evening, President and Mrs. Parrish and members of the President's Advisory Council hosted a reception at Higgins House that included performances and displays by the Humanities and Arts Department. A bagpiper signaled the call to the Inaugural Dinner in Harrington Auditorium and led the president and his wife along the path to Harrington, which was lit by candles held by students.

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