From the President

Welcome to WPI and to this edition of the Tech Bible, a publication that gives you insights into the history and traditions of a university that has, since its humble beginnings, experienced incredible growth, both in its physical presence and in the educational experience it provides to its students.

The vision of John Boynton, a tinware manufacturer who peddled dippers, pails, and the traditional New England pie plates along the Northeast’s rural highways, was to create an educational institution that taught the fundamental principles of mechanics and chemistry to those who could not afford such an education and would enable them to become more successful in their professional lives. The formation of a plan for the school was added to by others, including Seth Sweetser, a Worcester pastor, who wrote this provision into the plan:

"...it being understood that the course shall include studies with text books and recitations, and lectures with experiments, and all such practical applications of the use of tools and instruments, and the working of machinery, as may be available, so that the benefits of this school shall not be confined to the theories of science, but as far as possible shall extend to the practical application of its principles which will give the greatest advantage in the affairs of life."

This vision was evident in the university’s motto and creed, Lehr und Kunst, or Theory and Practice. That motto, forged long ago, meant that the school’s students would be "suitably taught in all the departments of practical mechanism," to make them "skillful workmen" who would be "fitted to carry on business for themselves," and which would therefore add "to their personal independence and happiness, while it renders them better and more useful citizens."

Today, the education WPI gives its students is based upon this early vision and motto and creed. While its nineteenth-century meaning was that the young men of WPI learned both the elements of relevant science and the techniques and means of production, its meaning today is that WPI students gain not only a first-class liberal education centered on the sciences and engineering, but also the understanding of how to comprehend and achieve in the world they confront.

As the world changed since the founding of the university, so, too, has the university changed in the way it imparts an education to its students. The WPI Plan, formulated more than 30 years ago, is a model for outcomes-oriented education across the country, centering on projects rather than courses. Through WPI’s innovative Global Perspective Program, students learn how to make a difference in the world so that when they graduate, they can make a difference the world. Project centers are located around the world—in London, Venice, Bangkok, Africa, Australia, and elsewhere—and in our own backyard, in the city of Worcester.

Today WPI honors in many ways its strong roots to the city and its citizens, who over a century ago furnished "the funds necessary to purchase a lot and erect a suitable building or buildings for its accommodations." From the Worcester Community Project Center to outreach to the city’s public schools to summer camp programs, WPI considers invaluable its relationship to the city of Worcester. Its recent investment in Gateway Park, a partnership with the Worcester Business Development Corporation, has cleaned up a former brownfield. It has as its first tenants the WPI life science departments and our Bioengineering Institute, signaling the university’s strong commitment to interdisciplinary research and graduate education in the life sciences, as well as WPI’s civic commitment to fueling the economic development of Worcester and Central Massachusetts.

I have great faith that you will receive from WPI an education that will give you the theory and practice with which to achieve and to lead, in both your personal and professional lives, and to make a real difference in the world. The Class of 1871—the first to graduate from WPI—was made up of the sons of mechanics, artisans, farmers, and businessmen. Only one lived outside the Massachusetts boundaries. Today, WPI students come from all across the nation—and from around the world—and are the sons and daughters of parents who come from a diversity of backgrounds and professional interests. Yet you, like your preceding fellow graduates, will be as prepared as they were for a lifetime of achievement, leadership, and fulfillment, not just in Massachusetts but in the world.

I welcome you to WPI and hope you will take some time to read this publication; it will tell you far more than I can about this remarkable institution. And I look forward to becoming acquainted with you and sharing the pride I have in this fine institution that you will soon make "yours."

— Dennis D. Berkey

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Last modified: Dec 19, 2011, 10:16 EST
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