President's Charge To Graduating Class

Our program is nearly finished, and I am sure you are looking forward to celebrating with your family and friends this afternoon. Before we conclude, however, I would like to share a few final thoughts with you.

First, I want to say on behalf of the faculty and Trustees how honored we have been to have had you as our students. You have challenged and rewarded us on a daily basis; you have brought substance, texture, and vitality to the university’s social and cultural life; and you have “made community” in ways that have enriched the experience of all who work and study on this beautiful campus.

Second, I want to say what a joy it has been for me personally to come to know many of you. Whenever we encountered one another--in meetings, at performances and games, and at your residences and mine--I have been deeply impressed not only by your intellects and achievements, but by your engaging manners, your thoughtful insights into matters both playful and profound, and your evident qualities of character. I am proud to be associated with you.

Third, I hope and trust that the strong bonds you have developed with your classmates, your faculty mentors, and with WPI will continue throughout your lifetimes.  Preserve and nurture these bonds. You will find yourself turning to them, time and again, in both happy and challenging times. And help us, in your new roles as engaged and committed alumni, to create an ever more rewarding experience for the WPI students who will follow in your footsteps, and to ensure a future for this excellent university fully reflecting its rich heritage and limitless potential.  

Next, I would like to direct a few words to the graduate students and especially to those receiving their doctoral degrees. You have no doubt experienced both the agony and the thrill that accompany focused research, as well as the satisfaction of the insights gained. As you go forth, let your achievements in your specialty inspire you to apply your abilities more broadly. Ask big and important questions, take bold strides, and do not retreat too far or too frequently into narrow channels. Use your intellectual power to its utmost.

Finally, in respect of the difficult world you are about to tackle, and especially in light of the economic calamities of the past year, let me recall words of one of my predecessors, Admiral Wat Tyler Cluverius, the seventh president of WPI, who presided during the difficult days of World War II. Speaking to WPI students in 1945, following the War’s end, he said, “Perhaps this is the last time you will have to rebuild a world.”

Unfortunately for us all, the world again needs rebuilding. Fortunately, you are well prepared for that ominous challenge and we know that you will play a great part in the rebuilding that must be done. In so doing, set no modest goals. Take inspiration in the enduring words of your fellow alumnus Robert Goddard: “It is difficult to say what is impossible,” he said, “for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” Shoot for the moon, as it were.

And do not go quietly. Question everything, remembering and using the critical skills that you have developed in your courses and projects, and in your debates with faculty and fellow students. Use your talents wisely—helping to address and resolve the major threats and opportunities in our world, turning the dreams of yesterday and hopes of today into the bright reality of tomorrow.

For all of what you are and what you have accomplished we salute you, we encourage you mightily, we congratulate you wholeheartedly and affectionately, and we send you forth proudly, with our endless good wishes.

Now, let us perform one final act together, one that I am sure has been in your hearts for some time. That is to acknowledge and express thanks to those who have made your WPI education possible and who have supported you throughout your time here. So, graduates--please stand, face your parents, other family members, and friends who may be with us today, and express your appreciation with a round of applause.

May 16, 2009