2006-2007

WPI's 139th Commencement: Amidst Colorful New Regalia, Messages of Inspiration Set Tone for Memorable Day


WPI's 139th Commencement ceremony was held Saturday, May 19 in Harrington Auditorium. Set amongst a sea of black and crimson robes, and featuring the university's new regalia, WPI dignitaries awarded 653 degrees, including 480 bachelor of science degrees, 152 master’s degrees, and 21 PhDs. Thousands of students, their families and friends, trustees, and other special guests were on hand to experience the inspirational messages delivered by keynote speaker Deborah Dunsire, MD, president and CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey.

Millennium Pharmaceuticals CEO Deborah Dunsire Challenges Graduates to 'Branch Out and Grow'; President Berkey Inspires Them to 'Imagine and Achieve'

WORCESTER, Mass. – Today, Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) 139th Commencement ceremony was held in Harrington Auditorium. Set amongst a sea of black and crimson robes, and featuring the university's new regalia, WPI dignitaries awarded 653 degrees, including 480 bachelor of science degrees, a total of 152 master's degrees (135 master of science, eight master of engineering, five MBA, and four master of mathematics for educators), and 21 PhDs. Thousands of students, their families and friends, trustees, and other special guests were on hand to experience the inspirational messages delivered by keynote speaker Deborah Dunsire, MD, president and CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey.

Honorary degrees were conferred upon Bernard M. Gordon, founder and chairman emeritus of Analogic Corp., who is known as "the father of analog to digital conversion" for his contributions to signal translation, medical tomography, and other high-precision instruments; and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and host of the PBS television series NOVA scienceNOW.

Keynote speaker Dunsire also received an honorary degree. Millennium Pharmaceuticals, founded in 1994, is one of the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies in the development of drugs for cancer. Dunsire previously led the U.S. oncology business at Novartis, playing a critical role in the development and launch of medications used to treat several types of cancer. She was also responsible for managing the merger of the Sandoz Pharmaceuticals and Ciba-Geigy oncology businesses to form Novartis. A graduate of the medical school of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, Dunsire was a practicing physician and worked as a clinical researcher earlier in her career.

In her address, Dunsire told students to remain true to growth and integrity, and their education at WPI will help their careers and lives flourish. "Your experiential, project-based learning sets this school apart in wise and valuable ways," she said. "I imagine that every one of you realizes you’re lucky to be here. I predict, as time goes by, you’ll appreciate even more your WPI education.

"I urge you to go for the growth and to seize opportunities to add breadth to your experience," Dunsire said. "Don’t just focus on moving up in your career, but also on branching out."

As part of the Commencement ceremony, President Berkey presented the WPI Presidential Medal to Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. Murray is a former three-term mayor of Worcester who worked to promote the city's economic development and the advancement of new research technologies and facilities, in particular Gateway Park, home of the soon-to-open WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center. The Presidential Medal has been presented to 16 individuals since its creation in 2001, including U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and nationally recognized inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen '73.

The Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prize was presented for the first time during WPI’s 2007 Commencement. The prize was established this year through the personal philanthropy of Donald K. Peterson ’71, current chair of the WPI Board of Trustees. It recognizes faculty members who, as true exemplars of the university’s highest aspirations and most important qualities, excel in all relevant areas of faculty performance. Two prizes, each in the amount of $10,000, were awarded this year to John A. McNeill, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Richard D. Sisson Jr., professor of mechanical engineering.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Berkey told students that lifelong learning is more than a slogan at WPI. "It is a habit of mind that arises from the experience of a truly excellent education," he said.

"In addition to those pleasures and the power of the intellectual capabilities you have developed, you have command of vastly important knowledge of the science, mathematics, and technology that is re-shaping the world as significantly as any natural or social force," Dr. Berkey continued. "And beyond this, your generation has a concern and a commitment to addressing and resolving the major threats and opportunities in our world unlike any generation that has come before you."

WPI's 2007 Commencement marked the debut of new regalia for candidates, trustees, and the president. The degree candidate robes (black for bachelor's and master's degrees, crimson for PhD) feature embroidered WPI seals on the front. Undergraduates receiving honors wear crimson (distinction) or gray (high distinction) cords. The new presidential and trustee robes are crimson.

President Berkey wore a new Presidential Medallion, with the WPI seal cast in silver and the names and years of service of all 15 of WPI's presidents engraved on small silver plates that form links in the chain. Provost ad interim John Orr carried a new Academic Mace, a 42-inch-tall staff made from fluted cherry wood topped with a circular silver pedestal on which sits a large silver medal that has the WPI seal on both sides. The medallion and mace were gifts to the university from President Berkey and his wife, Catherine.

May 19, 2007

Contact: Lorraine U. Martinelle, Public Relations Specialist, +1-508-831-6425, lurbans@wpi.edu Eileen Brangan Mell, Director of Public Relations, +1-508-831-6785, ebmell@wpi.edu