The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 13, NO. 3     June 2001

Lucent CEO tells graduates about opportunity and responsibility

From left, Gapontsev, Houde, Parrish, Wigand and Schacht

Sunshine and temperatures in the 70s made for a perfect spring day for the more than 5,000 family members, friends and alumni who gathered on WPI's Quadrangle on Saturday, May 19, to celebrate with and cheer for the Class of 2001 at the University's 133rd Commencement. Keynote speaker was Henry B. Schacht, the first chairman and CEO of Lucent Technologies Inc., spun off five years ago to become the world's largest telephone equipment manufacturer.

"The rapid advance in technological capabilities is changing the world before our eyes and at a pace that defies comprehension," said Schacht, who received an honorary doctor of engineering degree. "In a few years we will have the ability to do unlimited calculations and transmit information in unlimited quantity instantaneously at zero incremental cost." The result, he said, will be that "all of us, and the institutions of which we are a part or on which we depend, will be faced with the requirement to make more consequential decisions more rapidly--even as the world becomes more opaque; it will be like driving a race car faster and faster in an increasingly dense fog."

Schacht exhorted graduates to use their education wisely and fully for the benefit of society. "You have been provided with the opportunity to gain an unparalleled education," he said. "By accepting the opportunity, you have accepted the resultant obligation that goes along--the responsibility for using that education to lead us through the challenges as we become irreversibly global and independent."

In all, WPI awarded 896 degrees: 634 bachelor of science, 196 master of science, 21 master of engineering, two master of mathematics for educators, 26 MBAs and 17 Ph.D.s.

Physics Professor Stephen N. Jasperson, winner of the 2001 Trustees' Award for Outstanding Teaching, was honorary marshal. Senior class speaker was J. Alexander Knapp, a biochemistry major from Olathe, Kan.

WPI also awarded honorary doctorates to Valentin Gapontsev, CEO of IPG Photonics Corp., a leading global manufacturer of high-power amplifiers and lasers for fiber-optic communications systems, terrestrial wireless optical networks and free-space communications; Wilfrid J. Houde 59, an entrepreneur and consultant who is president of W.J. Houde & Associates in Saratoga, Calif. He was honored for his extraordinary contribution to such companies as Apple Computer and Hewlett Packard; and Jeffrey Wigand, creator of Smoke-Free Kids Inc., a nonprofit foundation that focuses on efforts to reduce tobacco use among teens. A former chief scientist for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., Wigand was the subject of The Insider, the movie that focused on his role as the central witness in lawsuits against the tobacco industry for deception and wrongdoing.

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Last modified: Jul 05, 2001, 16:48 EDT