WPI Honors 2003 Graduates at Commencement

First Latina Astronaut Ellen Ochoa Addresses WPI's 135th Graduation Ceremony

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

The first Latina astronaut, Ellen Ochoa, shown addressing WPI's 135th commencement.

WORCESTER, Mass. - May 18, 2003 - Ellen Ochoa, Ph.D., the first Latina astronaut and deputy director of flight crew operations at NASA's Johnson Space Center, delivered the commencement address at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) 135th graduation ceremony yesterday, Saturday, May 17. At the commencement, the university awarded 474 bachelor's degrees, 183 master's degrees and 17 Ph.D. degrees.

During her address, Ochoa described to WPI's graduates and community how a passion for learning propelled her into space. She left graduates with two observations that she and her space shuttle crew wrote into the ship log on the International Space Station during her last mission into space.

"The first was our crew motto: 'If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.' and the second was a quote from Leonardo da Vinci, one that I believe graduates of Robert Goddard's alma mater will appreciate: 'When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.'"

After Ochoa's address, the university conferred upon her an honorary doctor of engineering degree.

Honorary degrees were also presented to Joseph F. Dobronski '49, retired naval aviator and test pilot, and former director of flight test operations for McDonnell Aircraft; and Ray H. Witt, chairman and CEO of CMI-Management Services Inc. in Smithfield, R.I., who was instrumental in the founding and success of the Ray H. Witt Metalcasting Center at WPI.

Earlier in the day, Major General Kevin T. Campbell of the United States Army led the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony for 25 cadets and midshipmen, 16 of whom were WPI graduates. General Campbell is deputy director of policy, resources and requirements for the United States Strategic Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. He is also commander of the U.S. Army Element for the U.S. Strategic Command.

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.