Class of 2013 Given Message of Optimism at WPI’s 145th Commencement

Eric S. Lander of The Broad Institute trumpets university’s focus on “theory and practice” as path to the future
May 11, 2013

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Under threatening skies that brought intermittent rain, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) graduates received a message of hope during WPI’s 145th Commencement exercises today on the campus Quadrangle.

In all, 1,165 degrees were conferred upon the Class of 2013: 781 bachelor’s degrees, 358 master’s degrees, and 26 PhDs. Additionally, 328 degrees were awarded earlier this academic year.

Keynote speaker Eric S. Lander, president and founding director of The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, told the graduates they face a number of challenges, including economic stress, a looming crisis in healthcare costs for an aging population, climate change concerns, and political upheaval.

Watch Dr. Lander's Commencement Address

“And yet, nonetheless, I am optimistic,” Lander said. “I am optimistic because of you – because of your generation’s ability to both dream and act – to combine theory and practice.”

Lander, a principal leader of the international Human Genome Project (HGP) from 1990 to 2003, said today’s generation of students “…will now merge information with our physical world in extraordinary ways,” and he cited new gains in manufacturing, robotics, wireless communications, online learning, and medicine.

“And these are just the projects that I can imagine,” said Lander. “The most remarkable projects of your generation will be those that we cannot even conceive today. You have chosen wisely to have steeped yourselves in theory and practice – to understand technology – to learn to work in teams – to bring ideas into practices. These are the skills that the world will need most in the decades ahead.”

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During the ceremony, honorary degrees were conferred upon Lander; Carol T.Christ, president of Smith College; and Robert H. Beckett ’57, retired chairman and CEO of Robec, Inc., and currently president and CEO of Tribo Surface Engineering.

In his remarks, WPI President and CEO Dennis Berkey told students that they have enriched the university in a number of ways. “You have achieved at the highest levels – in the classrooms, on your project teams, on our playing fields, on the stage, and in the theatre; you have brought substance, texture, and vitality to the university’s social and cultural life,” he said.

President Berkey expressed gratitude for having met many of the students and praise their intellect, achievements, and insights. He urged students to take full advantage of their abilities. “Use your talents wisely—helping to address and resolve the major threats and opportunities in our world, as our distinguished alumnus, Robert Goddard admonished, ‘turning the dreams of yesterday, and hopes of today, into a bright reality of tomorrow.’ ”

Watch a video of President Berkey's remarks.

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Student speaker Jean Paul Miralda, president of the WPI Student Government Association, noted that his four years at WPI have been a life-changing experience. “Through our journey at WPI we have learned about teamwork, collaboration, innovation and dealing with challenges and failures,” said Miralda, who received his bachelor’s degree in management engineering with a concentration in mechanical engineering.

The Chairman’s Exemplary Faculty Prize was also presented during WPI’s 2013 Commencement to David Cyganski, professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI. The prize was established in 2007 through the personal philanthropy of Donald K. Peterson ’71, former chair of the WPI Board of Trustees. The award 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.

Watch a video of Jean Paul Miralda's Remarks