The WPI Hall of Luminaries celebrates Worcester Polytechnic Institute and its long history of theory and practice by honoring the individuals who have brought about the most extraordinary accomplishments to society. The inductees are members of the WPI community who have achieved the pinnacle of their professions or have made exceptional contributions to humanity or to their field. We induct individuals on a bi-annual basis and honor them in a public exhibit on the third floor of the Rubin Campus Center.
Inaugural Honorees for 2017
George I. Alden, 1926 (Hon.)*
Pioneering WPI Faculty Member, Industrialist, and Philanthropist
Alden, a pioneer faculty member at WPI, achieved national recognition in the 1880s and 1890s for his skillful and compelling adoption of an engineering education that combined theory and practice. He, along with fellow faculty member, Milton Higgins, established the Norton Emery Wheel Company in their spare time. By 1896, Alden had invented a dynamometer for measuring the power of all kinds of machines, he and Higgins invented the first hydraulic elevators, and Alden had established and directed the second hydraulic laboratory in the United States. Because of his belief in education, Alden initiated one of the first programs for helping employees to acquire further education at the Norton Company. He also established the George I. Alden Trust, which today remains one of the most generous philanthropic organizations in Worcester, continuing to support the education of generations of leaders at WPI and other institutions in the city.
John Boynton, Founder*
Revolutionary in Practical Education
Boynton, a prosperous tinware manufacturer from Templeton, Mass., had the dream to start WPI. He recognized the expanding industrial revolution in New England and knew educated people would be needed to assume leadership positions in manufacturing and commerce. Boynton pledged his life’s savings of $100,000 to endow a new school in Worcester to educate those leaders. With the help of a few others, Boynton’s vision was realized when the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science opened in May 1865.
Curtis R. Carlson, PhD, 1967, 2006 (Hon.)
Internationally Recognized for the Theory and Practice of Innovation
Carlson is a pioneer in the development and use of innovation best practices and an advocate for innovation, education, and economic development. He is widely known for the development of high-definition TV and SIRI for the iPhone4, but he is also a trusted and sought-after adviser, sharing best practices with government leaders and organizations around the world. Carlson is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an adviser to the U.S. National Science Foundation. He began two teams that received Emmy Awards for their improvements to television quality. Carlson has also authored two books on innovation.
Robert H. Goddard, 1908*
Father of Modern Rocketry
Goddard is known throughout the world as the father of modern rocketry. As a student at WPI, he launched a rocket through the roof of a campus building. His research continued and in 1912, he suggested to the Smithsonian that it could be practical for a rocket to reach altitudes as high as the moon. Goddard launched his first liquid-fueled rocket on March 16, 1926 in Auburn, Mass. In 1914, he received two U.S. patents: one for a rocket using liquid fuel, the other for a multi-stage rocket.
William R. Grogan, 1946, 1949 MS, 1990 (Hon.)*
Educational Innovator and Leader of the WPI Plan
Grogan led conversations around revolutionizing education at WPI. As the first dean of undergraduate studies, he led the WPI Plan’s implementation, a process that took 15 years. Grogan’s contributions to technological education brought him numerous honors. The American Society of Engineering Education presented him with three of its most prestigious honors. The WPI community has also recognized Grogan; notably, the WPI Alumni Association presented him with its Goat’s Head Award for Lifetime Commitment to WPI in 2012.
Dean Kamen, 1973, 1992 (Hon.)
Visionary Inventor and Inspiration to Young People
Kamen is an inventor of the AutoSyringe, Segway™, iBOT™ mobility system, and the HomeChoice portable dialysis system. He holds more than 440 patents, many of them for innovative medical devices that have changed healthcare worldwide. In 2000, Kamen was presented with the National Medal of Technology. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1997, awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize in 2002, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in May 2005. Kamen is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering, as well as many other national and international engineering organizations. He is also the founder of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use, and enjoy science and technology. Founded in 1989, FIRST serves more than 1,000,000 young people, ages 6 – 18, in more than 86 countries around the globe.
Judith Nitsch P.E., 1975, 2015 (Hon.)
Leader in Sustainable Engineering and Mentor to Many
Nitsch is the founding principal of Nitsch Engineering, a 100+ person civil, structural, and transportation engineering; land surveying; planning; green infrastructure consulting; and GIS services firm with four offices in Massachusetts and Washington DC. A Registered Professional Engineer in 27 states during her career, Nitsch is serving her second term as a member of the U.S. Department of State Overseas Building Operations Industry Advisory Group. She was the 2014 national president of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network. In 1989, she was elected the first alumna member to WPI's Board of Trustees where she served for 23 years, including 16 years as Chair of the Facilities and Campus Infrastructure Committee. Nitsch is known as a mentor and advisor to many students and alumni, and as a steadfast supporter of her alma mater. She has been recognized for her commitment to the WPI community with nearly every commendation. Nitsch Engineering has received many awards over the years including being recognized by Inc. Magazine as an Inc. 500 fastest growing company in 1996, to being the #1 Top Place to Work in the mid-size firm category by The Boston Globe in 2016.
David Norton, 1962
Co-Creator of The Balanced Scorecard
Norton, co-creator of The Balanced Scorecard, is the world’s leading authority on strategic performance management. The Balanced Scorecard is a strategic planning and management system that is used extensively in business, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve communications, and monitor performance. Norton is the founder and director of several professional services firms, including Palladium Group. He was voted as one of the world’s 12 most influential thinkers by Sun Top Media’s “Thinkers 50” in 2008. Norton has also authored books that have been translated into 23 languages.
Stephen Salisbury II, Founder*
First Leader of the Institute
Salisbury was appointed as the first president of WPI’s board of trustees. He was charged with bringing to fruition the vision of John Boynton and Ichabod Washburn. Salisbury spent the last 16 years of his life dedicated to WPI. He supported WPI generously—his gifts totaling $236,000—although he often quietly made up the budget deficits in the school’s formative years.
Ichabod Washburn, Founder*
Washburn was one of Worcester’s most successful businessmen. By 1865, he owned the world’s largest wire factory. Like John Boynton, Washburn also had a vision for a new type of school, one that would replace the age-old apprentice system with a formal educational program for tradesmen. He offered to build a model manufacturing facility on campus to provide practical experience that would augment classroom instruction. The trustees accepted Washburn’s offer, but only after delicate negotiations modified his original objective from training trade apprentices to providing hands-on shop experience for future engineers. This combination of classroom, laboratory, and shop experience became the hallmark of a WPI education and continues to thrive today.
Richard T. Whitcomb, 1943, 1956 (Hon.)*
Father of Transonic Flight
Whitcomb invented three revolutionary aerodynamic concepts that forever changed airplane design by improving efficiencies. He developed the Area Rule, which made supersonic flight practical. Whitcomb also invented the Supercritical Wing, which revolutionized jet liner design decreasing drag and increasing fuel efficiency. His final innovation was winglets, airfoils that extend at an angle from the ends of wings. By reducing drag and increasing lift, they produce greater fuel efficiency. The famed aerodynamicist retired from NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., in 1980, but his contributions remain some of the research center's greatest accomplishments. He earned many honors in his life: the Collier Trophy in 1954, the National Medal of Science (personally conferred by President Richard Nixon) in 1973, the U.S. Air Force Exceptional Service medal in 1955, the first NACA Distinguished Service Medal in 1956, the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1959 and the National Aeronautics Association's Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 1974, among others. In 2012 the National Aviation Hall of Fame named him an honoree.