Class of 2012 Urged to Play a Key Role in Keeping Our Nation Competitive in the Global Economy

Echoing That Charge from Keynote Speaker Roger W. Ferguson Jr., President and CEO of TIAA-CREF, WPI President and CEO Dennis Berkey Urged the Graduates to Use Their Talents and Abilities to 'Address and Resolve' World Problems
May 12, 2012

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) 144th Commencement ceremony was held today on the campus Quadrangle, where 1,077 degrees were conferred. In total, 718 bachelor’s degrees, 340 master's degrees, and 19 PhDs were awarded. Several thousand attendees were on hand to hear the inspirational messages delivered by keynote speaker Roger W. Ferguson Jr., president and CEO of TIAA-CREF, and WPI President and CEO Dennis Berkey.

Honorary degrees were conferred upon Ferguson, Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; Nancy Hopkins, Amgen Professor of Biology at MIT; and Robert L. Norton, Milton Prince Higgins II Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at WPI.

    Watch video highlights from the 2012 Commecement ceremony.

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In his address to the graduates, Ferguson said, "Employers are thirsting for people like you. Even so, the value of a WPI degree is not just about jobs or salaries. In fact, it may sound radical, but getting a job is not really the purpose of going to college at all. Rather, college is about developing your human capital. You have done a tremendous job in developing your human capital here at WPI. Now, the question you face is: What are you going to do with that?

"Your education has given you a unique capacity for making an impact," said Ferguson. "You are doers. You are problem-solvers and innovators. You are inventors and entrepreneurs. You are leaders. You are the kind of people who can deliver the innovation and progress that will enable our economy to thrive again. Just as your predecessors at WPI helped fuel the Industrial Revolution in New England, you can play a key role in keeping our nation strong and competitive in the 21st century global economy."

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President Berkey told graduates to set high goals and to use the skills they learned at WPI to meet and resolve the challenges and threats facing the world. "The degrees we award today symbolize an important public good of which this university is exceedingly proud," he said. "…in respect of the difficult world you are about to tackle, and especially in light of the economic and political calamities that have plagued the world throughout your college years, it is painfully evident that the world needs rebuilding—and shaping into a more stable, just, and sustainable form. You are well prepared for this ominous challenge and we know that you will play a great part in the rebuilding that must be done. In so doing, set no modest goals. You have experienced the thrill, power, and satisfaction of achievement at the highest levels. Let that be your lifelong quest.

"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, as our distinguished alumnus, Robert Goddard, admonished, 'turning the dreams of yesterday and hopes of today into a bright reality of tomorrow.'"

The Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prize was also presented for the sixth time during WPI’s 2012 Commencement. 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. One prize, in the amount of $10,000, was awarded this year to WPI Professor Yi Hua (Ed) Ma of the Department of Chemical Engineering.