State Department Spokesman to be WPI Commencement Speaker on May 24

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

Worcester, Mass. - R. Nicholas Burns, spokesman and Principal Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of State, will be the keynote speaker at WPI's 129 commencement on Saturday, May 24. The commencement theme is "Global Perspectives: The Key to the New Millennium." An estimated 700 students will receive degrees: 550 bachelor's; 130 master's; and 15 to 17 Ph.D. degrees. The commencement begins at 11 a.m. on the WPI quadrangle.

On Friday, May 23, the traditional Baccalaureate ceremony will be held in Alden Memorial Hall beginning at 5:30 p.m. The ceremony will feature inspirational music and messages from faculty, administration and graduating students.

The joint ROTC commissioning ceremony will take place at 8:30 a.m. on May 24 at Alden Memorial Hall. Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Wilkerson, commander of the Marine Forces Reserve in New Orleans, La., will be the commissioning officer for the 24 cadets commissioned - 6 in the Army; 6 in the Air Force; and 12 in the Navy.

Nicholas Burns, a career Senior Foreign Service Officer, was appointed to his present position by Secretary of State Warren Christopher in January 1995. Before his appointment he had served for the previous five years on the National Security Council staff at the White House. From 1993 to 1995 he was special assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs. He had lead responsibility in the White House for advising the President and the National Security Advisor on all aspects of U.S. relations with the 15 countries of the former Soviet Union.

Born in New York, Burns was raised in Massachusetts (his parents are Worcester natives who now live in Wellesley) and earned his Certificat Pratique de Langue Francaise from the University of Paris (Sorbonne). He subsequently earned his bachelor's in European History from Boston College where he graduated Summa Cum Laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He later received an M.A. with distinction from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in International Economics and American Foreign Policy.

Burns began his Foreign Service career in the Middle East where he was vice consul and staff assistant to the Ambassador in Cairo, Egypt from 1983-1985 and then Political Officer at the American Consulate General in Jerusalem from 1985-1987. He has served as director for Soviet (and later Russian) Affairs and a series of positions at the Department of State.

He has been awarded the State Department's Superior Honor Award for outstanding performance three times and in 1994 the Department's James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence. In 1995, he was awarded the order of Terra Mariana by the Estonian government for his work to promote the withdrawal of Russian military forces from that country.

Burns is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and International Institute for Strategic Studies. He speaks French and Arabic.