WPI Names Bernard Amadei, Founder of Engineers Without Borders-USA, 2014 Commencement Speaker

Honorary degrees will be awarded to Amadei, Robert A. Foisie '56, Sheila M. Harrity, and Stephen E. Rubin ’74
April 09, 2014

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) announced today that Bernard Amadei, PhD, founder of Engineers Without Borders-USA, and co-founder of the Engineers Without Borders-International Network, will deliver the address at the university's 146th commencement exercises on Saturday, May 17, 2014, and will receive an honorary degree.

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Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Robert A. Foisie '56, retired founder of Matik North America Inc.; Sheila M. Harrity, nationally recognized principal of Worcester Technical High School; and Stephen E. Rubin ’74, entrepreneur and former chairman of the WPI Board of Trustees.

"Over the course of his career, Bernard Amadei has done outstanding work important to the lives of people around the globe – whether it’s figuring out solutions to water challenges or designing buildings in developing nations," said WPI Interim President Philip B. Ryan. "The value proposition that led to the creation of Engineers Without Borders-USA – and the work that the organization does – resonates strongly with our students and faculty. A WPI education is grounded in the principles of theory and practice, and through our project-based curriculum, WPI students work in teams to engage and apply their technological knowledge to solve important real-world problems at project centers around the globe. Taking that ethos out of the classroom, WPI students have also formed an impressive and productive Engineers Without Borders-USA chapter at the university. So it is because of the work that he has done, the values that drive him, and the inspiration he has provided to so many others who have since joined this remarkable organization, that we anticipate an uplifting speech from Bernard Amadei to launch the WPI Class of 2014 into their brilliant futures."

In addition, Ryan commended the honorary degree recipients.

"WPI's 2014 honorary degree recipients are accomplished and recognized business and educational leaders," said Ryan. "Robert Foisie and Stephen Rubin are both distinguished alumni who have built impressive careers by being thoughtful and innovative problem solvers; they have created jobs and contributed to society at high levels, and they have supported their alma mater for many years and in many ways. Sheila Harrity is a true visionary and passionately dedicated education leader, and has been honored by the State and our Nation for her outstanding work. We are proud to bestow honorary degrees upon these outstanding individuals."

Bernard Amadei

As a leading international engineer, Amadei founded Engineer Without Borders-USA in 2002. The group supports community-driven development programs worldwide by collaborating with local partners to design and implement sustainable engineering projects, while creating transformative experiences and responsible leaders. Its 13,800 members, including students from WPI, work with communities to find appropriate solutions for water supply, sanitation, energy, agriculture, civil works, structures, and information systems.

Amadei is Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned his engineering diploma from the School of Applied Geology and Mining Engineering in Nancy, France, in 1977; his master of applied science degree from the University of Toronto in 1979; and his doctorate degree from University of California, Berkeley in 1982. Amadei holds the Mortenson Endowed Chair in Global Engineering and served as faculty director of the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities from 2009 to 2012. He is also the founding president of Engineers Without Borders – USA, and the co-founder of the Engineers Without Borders-International network. Among other distinctions, Amadei is a 2007 co-recipient of the Heinz Award for the Environment; the recipient of the 2008 ENR Award of Excellence; an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Construction; and an elected Senior Knight-Ashoka Fellow. He holds four honorary doctoral degrees. In 2012, Amadei was appointed as a Science Envoy by the U.S. Department of State.

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Robert A. Foisie

Robert A. Foisie '56, a trustee emeritus of WPI, will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. Foisie received a mechanical engineering degree from WPI, and went on to earn a master’s degree from Cornell University in 1958. He began his career as an engineer at Hamilton Standard Co. and later served as chief production engineer at Pratt & Whitney in Hartford, Conn. As a young engineer, Foisie found a way to simplify the design of a fuel control valve for jet aircraft, which led to a patent. Among his many credits, Foisie is founder and former president of Matik North America Inc. in West Hartford, Conn., an import, distribution and service firm specializing in paper-processing machinery. He also owned a Swiss company that makes cartoning and packaging machinery. His many current entrepreneurial and business interests span telecommunications to real estate.

Over the years, Foisie has built a long and generous history of philanthropy at WPI, with a particular focus on undergraduate scholarships, having supported more than 580 students. Since 2009 the Robert Foisie Scholars Fund has provided scholarships for a total of 31 students – 22 of whom are current students. Prior to establishing the Robert Foisie Scholars Fund, he had established 17 other undergraduate scholarships – named in honor of WPI professors who influenced his life – which are currently supporting 65 students. He also helped fund the construction of the university's campus center in 2001.

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Sheila M. Harrity

Sheila Harrity, principal at Worcester Technical High School since 2006, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Last September, she was named the 2014 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year. She was also selected as the 2013 Massachusetts Principal of the Year. Prior to coming to WTHS, Harrity was the principal at Wachusett Regional High School. She was selected the 1997 Teacher of the Year for Worcester Public Schools, has been inducted into the Worcester Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, and was a Massachusetts State Teacher of the Year semi-finalist in 1998.

Earlier this month, Harrity announced that President Barack Obama will deliver the main address at Worcester Technical High School's graduation on June 11, noting that "…the President's work and commitment to promoting equality of opportunity for all will inspire the class of 2014."

Harrity received a bachelor's degree in Social Work from Providence College. She earned a master's degree in Moderate Special Needs from Assumption College, and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Worcester State University. In 2013 she earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northeastern University.

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Stephen E. Rubin

Stephen E. Rubin '74, who has served WPI in so many capacities over the years, will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. Rubin earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and was one of the first graduates of the WPI Plan, the Institute's innovative, project-based approach to education. Rubin has been involved in several start-ups and is the founder and past CEO of Intellution, an industrial software company. He previously served as president and CEO of Longwatch Inc., and is currently president and CEO of Recognisis, which helps institutions track and manage donors' efforts and recognition items.

Rubin distinguished himself early in his career as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, becoming one of the youngest Presidential Founders in WPI history. He has supported student scholarships, global projects, faculty research, facilities, and many other areas of the university over the years. In 1989 he received WPI's Ichabod Washburn Award, which recognizes outstanding professional achievement by a young alumnus. In 1999 he received the Herbert F. Taylor Alumni Award for Distinguished Service to WPI. Rubin was a member of the WPI Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2013 and is now a trustee emeritus. As chairman of the Board from 2010 to 2013, he led WPI through a period of significant expansion and recognition. Last November WPI’s Campus Center was renamed the Rubin Campus Center in honor of the decades of service he has given to WPI.