Several thousand parents, family members and guests attended WPI's 128th Commencement on Saturday, May 18, when 837 degrees were awarded: 587 bachelor's, 237 master's and 13 Ph.D.s. Twelve WPI seniors received commissions during a joint commissioning ceremony that was held early on Commencement Day; retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Donald G. Hard was the commissioning officer.
Norman R. Augustine, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., was the Commencement speaker on the Quadrangle, where he received an honorary doctor of engineering degree.
Others recognized for their achievements with honorary degrees were Duane D. Pearsall of Englewood, Colo., who conceived and developed the low cost residential smoke detector and brought it to the marketplace; inventor-turned-entrepreneur Howard G. Freeman '40 of Worcester; and Professor and Chemical Engineering Department Head Albert Sacco Jr. of Holden, Mass., an astronaut, who was part of the second U.S. Microgravity Laboratory aboard the space shuttle Columbia. Pearsall and Sacco received honorary doctor of science degrees; Freeman received an honorary doctor of engineering degree.
Augustine noted that instantaneous communications, the advent of worldwide marketing techniques, and a much more sophisticated capital formation process have increased the velocity of economic change to a point unprecedented in human history. "Indeed, change is apparent in virtually every aspect of human experience," he noted. "What we have is not so much as simply a revolution in a few fields such as economics, technology and politics...as a broadly based knowledge explosion." He also stressed that if one doesn't continue an extensive program of lifelong learning, one will become educationally middle-aged by the time one is 30.
"In order to survive in the knowledge-driven 21st century, it won't suffice for the technically trained to also be exposed to liberal arts, although this is essential," he said. "It will also be necessary for those specialized in the liberal arts to gain some knowledge of the laws of thermodynamics. There will be an equally compelling need for our universities to offer physics for poets, biology for businesspeople, and economics for engineers."
In his message from the senior class, titled "Transitional Elements," N. Harrison Ripps noted, "We seem to be catching up with our visions. Science fiction no longer points to fantastic notions but instead to the result of what we are doing now." He concluded by saying "we will buy more time for future generations, and somewhere in the chaos, we will make a living."
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