WPI Honors 2004 Graduates at Commencement

Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5706

WORCESTER, Mass. -- May 23, 2004 -- Temperatures in the 40s did little to dampen the mood of excited graduates at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's 136th commencement yesterday. University President Edward Alton Parrish led the outdoor graduation ceremonies, his last as WPI president, and conferred 503 bachelor's degrees, 169 master's degrees and seven Ph.D. degrees.

Civil-rights activist and math educator Robert P. Moses delivered the commencement address and reflected on the changes the country has undergone during the seven decades of his life. He noted that when the nation was an industrial power, reading and writing were the requisite skills needed to be considered a true citizen. With the transition to a computer- and technology-based society, knowledge of math and algebra are now key. This is what led Moses to found The Algebra Project Inc., a national mathematics literacy effort aimed at helping low-income students and students of color successfully achieve mathematical skills that are a prerequisite for full citizenship in today's technological society.

After Moses' address, the university conferred upon him an honorary doctor of science degree.

Honorary degrees were also presented to Eugene M. Lang, R. Kingman Webster '54, and Sheila E. Widnall, Ph.D. Lang, a retired businessman and philanthropist -- most notably as the founder of the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, received an honorary degree of doctor of science. Webster, a retired businessman and philanthropist -- particularly in his establishment of I Have a Dream-Lawrence, received an honorary degree of doctor of science. Widnall, the first woman to head a branch of the U.S. military as former Secretary of the Air Force, received an honorary degree of doctor of engineering.

Earlier in the day, Brigadier General John T. Brennan of the U.S. Air Force led the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony for 21 cadets and midshipmen, 14 of whom were WPI graduates. General Brennan is deputy director of the Reaction Force Air Staff, Allied Command Operations, NATO in Kalkar, Germany.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865, WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education. WPI was the first university to understand that students learn best when they have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to the solution of important problems. Today its students, working in teams at more than 20 project centers around the globe, put their knowledge and skills to work as they complete professional-level work that can have an immediate positive impact on society.

WPI's innovative, globally focused curriculum has been recognized by leaders in industry, government and academia as the model for the technological education of tomorrow. Students emerge from this program as true technological humanists, well rounded, with the confidence, the interpersonal skills and the commitment to innovation they need to make a real difference in their professional and personal lives.

The university awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, its first-rate research laboratories support master's and Ph.D. programs in more than 30 disciplines in engineering, science and the management of technology. Located in the heart of the region's biotechnology and high-technology sectors, WPI has built research programs -- including the largest industry/university alliance in North America -- that have won it worldwide recognition.