WPI to Celebrate 141st Commencement on May 16

Media Contact
May 14, 2009

WORCESTER, Mass. – Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will hold its 141st Commencement exercises Saturday, May 16. The event will be webcast live, starting at 11 a.m. As part of the ceremony, the university will confer honorary degrees upon four outstanding leaders who have advanced the role that science and technology play in everyday life: the president of Xerox Corp., a groundbreaking technology company that has made office tasks easier; a robotics company founder, whose vision led to the invention of a blockbuster robotic vacuum and robots that save combat soldiers’ lives; a pioneering president emeritus of MIT who currently heads the National Academy of Engineering; and an engineer who showed how electronics can be protected from radiation.

In addition to receiving an honorary degree from WPI, Ursula M. Burns, president and director of Xerox Corp., will also deliver the Commencement address. Burns was named president, and elected a member of Xerox’s Board of Directors, in April 2007. As president, Burns is responsible for global research, development, engineering, marketing, and manufacturing of technology, supplies, and related services. She also oversees the company’s IT organization, corporate strategy, human resources and ethics, marketing operations, and global accounts. Burns is credited with driving a technology strategy that launched 100 new products in the last three years, giving Xerox its broadest portfolio of document management systems and software ever. She is also credited with having helped the company through an aggressive, multibillion-dollar turnaround plan that significantly strengthened Xerox’s competitive position in the marketplace. Burns earned a bachelor’s degree from Polytechnic Institute of New York and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. 

Helen Greiner is co-founder and former president of Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot Corp. Under her leadership, iRobot delivered robots into the industrial, consumer, academic, and military markets. Greiner’s vision has been brought to life by products such as the Roomba vacuuming robot, which sold more than three million units to consumers around the world, and the PackBot Tactical Mobile Robot, which helped save soldiers’ lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. She resigned in October 2008 as iRobot’s chairman to found The Droid Works, which will create products in the general area of unmanned aerial vehicles. Greiner received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in computer science from MIT.

George C. Messenger Jr. ’51 is owner and vice president of Las Vegas, Nev.-based Messenger and Associates, a diversified company that provides engineering consulting, holds real estate, and offers financial management and investment services. A recognized authority on transient radiation effects on electronics, Messenger holds numerous patents in the microwave diode and hardened semiconductor fields. In addition, he is the co-discoverer of the “Messenger-Spratt Equation” for damage in bipolar semi-conductor devices, and discoverer of the Kirk Effect in bipolar transistors. Messenger received his bachelor’s degree in physics from WPI. He received a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in engineering from California Coast University.

Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a director of DuPont for 14 years and of IBM for 13 years, and served on various federal committees. He has authored a book on holographic interferometry, and two books on higher education. In 2006 President George W. Bush awarded Vest the National Medal of Technology. Vest, who has received honorary doctoral degrees from 10 universities, earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University, and MSE and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan.