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WPI Names the 2012 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients

April 25, 2012

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) announced today that Roger W. Ferguson Jr., president and CEO of TIAA-CREF, a Fortune 100 financial services organization and the leading retirement provider for employees in the academic, research, medical, and cultural fields, will deliver the address at the university's 144th commencement exercises on Saturday, May 12, 2012. Honorary degrees will be awarded to Ferguson; Susan Windham-Bannister, PhD, the first president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; Nancy Hopkins, PhD, Amgen Professor of Biology at MIT who is also known for her revolutionary work on gender equity issues in science; and Robert L. Norton, Milton Prince Higgins II Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at WPI, an award-winning teacher recognized in industry and academia for his expertise in kinematics, cam design and manufacturing, and engineering education.

"Roger Ferguson has an extraordinary record of achievement as both an industry leader and a public servant," said WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey. "His responsible leadership in challenging times, commitment to education and unique insights as one of the nation's most respected economists make him an ideal speaker at our 2012 Commencement. We believe our graduates and their families will benefit greatly from his wisdom and advice."

"WPI's other honorary degree recipients are remarkable individuals, as well, and we are privileged to have them participating in our Commencement ceremony," Berkey continued. "Susan Windham Bannister plays a pivotal role in the robust life sciences community here in Massachusetts, and Nancy Hopkins is changing the course for women in science through her important research at MIT. Finally, Professor Robert Norton, who is retiring this year after 31 years of excellent service to this university, will also be honored for his contributions. Bob is an exemplar of the educational philosophy embodied in the WPI Plan, our innovative approach to undergraduate education built upon WPI's founding principles of 'theory and practice.' An award-winning teacher respected by students and colleagues alike for his 'rigor and vigor' and a researcher whose expertise is highly valued by industry, Bob is characteristic of the generation of WPI faculty who transformed engineering education."

Roger W. Ferguson Jr. joined TIAA-CREF as president and CEO in 2008. Prior to that he served as vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System from 1999 to 2006. During that time, he was a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, served as chairman of the Financial Stability Forum, and chaired Federal Reserve Board committees on banking supervision and regulation, payment system policy, and reserve bank oversight. Alan Greenspan, the former long-term Fed chairman, called Ferguson "one of the most effective vice chairmen in the history of the Federal Reserve."

Ferguson began his career in 1981 as an attorney in the New York City office of Davis Polk & Wardwell; from 1984 to 1997 he served as an associate and partner at McKinsey & Company. After completing his service to the Federal Reserve, he joined Swiss Re, where he was the head of financial services, chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation, and a member of the company’s executive committee. He holds a BA, JD, and PhD in economics from Harvard University.

He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and a member of the academy's Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. He is a member of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and served on its predecessor, the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. He is also co-chair of the Committee on Economic Development and he serves on the boards of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., Audax Health, and several nonprofit organizations, including the Institute for Advanced Study and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Ferguson is a member of the Advisory Board of Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP and serves as co-chair of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on the Long-Run Macro-Economic Effects of the Aging U.S. Population. He is vice chairman of the Economic Club of New York and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Harvard University Visiting Committee for the Memorial Church, and the Group of Thirty.

Nancy Hopkins is Amgen Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She joined MIT in 1973 as an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer Research. Her work has helped to identify the role genes play in longevity and cancer predisposition. Hopkins is also well known for having chaired the committee that wrote the 1999 Report on the Status of Women Faculty in the School of Science at MIT, a groundbreaking study focusing on gender equity in scientific research. Among the startling findings of that study was that MIT's School of Science had only 15 tenured women in 1994, compared with 197 tenured men. The study also showed that women at MIT were often allocated significantly less laboratory space and earned less than their male counterparts. That study is credited with having launched a national re-examination of equity for women in science and for having led nine research universities, including MIT, to form an ongoing collaboration for the purposes of studying and addressing issues of gender equity in scientific research and academia. An alumna of Radcliffe College, Hopkins earned a PhD in molecular biology and biochemistry at Harvard University. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Susan Windham-Bannister was appointed the first president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center in 2008. The center, which serves as the hub for the state's life sciences academic and business community, is a quasi-public organization charged with administering the 10-year, $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative that was proposed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2007 and enacted by the Massachusetts Legislature in June 2008. The Center's investment portfolio is creating jobs, catalyzing innovation, strengthening Massachusetts' global leadership position in the life sciences, and accelerating the commercialization of promising treatments, therapies, and cures. Windham-Bannister is a founding partner and former managing vice president of the Commercial Strategy Group for Abt Bio-Pharma Solutions Inc. She has 35 years of consulting experience with such clients as Siemens Diagnostics, Roche, Pfizer, Genzyme, Eyetech, Sopherion, Sanofi, Novartis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Tufts Medical Center, among others. She holds a BA from Wellesley College and a PhD in health policy and management from the Heller School at Brandeis University.

Robert L. Norton is the Milton Prince Higgins II Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at WPI. He joined the WPI faculty in 1981 after more than 20 years in industry and academia and has held both the Russell M. Searle Instructorship and Morgan Distinguished Instructorship in mechanical engineering. As the head of the Design Group in the Mechanical Engineering Department, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses that focus on design, kinematics, vibrations, and the dynamics of machinery. In addition, Professor Norton established a paradigm-setting student project center at Gillette Co. in Boston, where mechanical engineering majors can work on senior-level design projects in conjunction with professional engineers at a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. In addition, Norton supervises graduate research and is active as a consultant to industry on a wide range of engineering and manufacturing projects, which have included the design of disposable medical products and high-speed production machinery. His scholarship has resulted in 13 patents, numerous journal articles and technical papers on kinematics, dynamics of machinery, cam design and manufacturing, computers in education, and engineering education, and eight engineering design software packages. He is the author of three popular textbooks, including Design of Machinery, the fifth edition of which was recently released. In 2007 he was named the Professor of the Year for Massachusetts by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), one of the most prestigious awards for college professors; he received the Machine Design Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2002. He received WPI's Board of Trustees Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2005. Norton is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society for Engineering Education, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Society of Sigma XI, and Pi Tau Sigma. He earned undergraduate degrees in mechanical engineering and industrial technology at Northeastern University and an MS in engineering design at Tufts University, which presented him with its Outstanding Career Achievement Award in 2009.