WPI President Challenges the Class of 2011 to 'Take Bold Strides'

Media Contact
May 14, 2011

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) 143rd Commencement ceremony was held May 14, 2011, on the campus quadrangle, where 1,174 degrees were conferred. Several thousand attendees were on hand to experience the inspirational messages delivered by WPI President and CEO Dennis Berkey and keynote speaker Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil. In total, 703 Bachelor of Science degrees, four Bachelor of Arts degrees, 446 master's degrees, and 21 PhDs were awarded.

--Watch video highlights of WPI's 2011 Commencement ceremony.--

President Berkey told graduates that they are well prepared to handle the world's challenges. WPI is a community of "purposeful learners, world-class problem solvers, and thoughtful patrons of our planet," he said. "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.

"And do not go quietly," he continued. "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 a bright reality of tomorrow."

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In his Commencement address, Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, urged the graduates to do their part in promoting education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as doing so would "change lives for the better."

Tillerson told the graduates that they are entering a world in transition and change and that it will need their "vision, ingenuity, and innovations. Your skills—and how you apply them—have the potential to help our world build a bridge to a brighter future," he said.

"At this time in America's history, we face a host of challenges: high unemployment and underemployment, a fiscal house in disarray, an education system that is in need of reform, and an erosion of our global leadership position in technology and innovation," Tillerson noted. "I would submit that addressing our needs in education and technology are our highest priorities."

Honorary degrees were conferred upon Tillerson, BAE Systems President and CEO Linda Hudson, and Roberta Schaefer, founding executive director and president of Worcester Research Bureau.

The Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prize was also presented for the fifth time during WPI's 2011 Commencement to L. Ramdas Ram-Mohan, professor of physics. The prize was established in 2007 through the personal philanthropy of Donald K. Peterson '71, former chair of the WPI Board of Trustees. Current Board Chair Stephen E. Rubin '74 is proud to continue the tradition. The awards 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. One prize, in the amount of $10,000, was awarded this year to WPI Physics Professor L. Ramdas Ram-Mohan.