photo of commencement speakers

Worcester Polytechnic Institute Announces 2023 Commencement Speakers and Honorees

Congressman James McGovern and scientific futurist Catherine Ball to deliver addresses
Media Contact
April 27, 2023

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) today announced its honored speakers for this year’s Commencement ceremonies to be held May 11 and 13:

Congressman James McGovern, who represents Massachusetts’ second congressional district, will deliver the address at the university’s Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13, at 10 a.m. on the campus quadrangle.

Catherine Ball, a scientific futurist, author, and tech influencer, will deliver the address at the university’s Graduate Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 11, at 5 p.m. on the campus quadrangle.

“Congressman McGovern and Catherine Ball are both passionate about making the world a better place,” said President Grace Wang. “Congressman McGovern has spent decades working to ensure that people everywhere not only have their basic needs met but also are able to access quality education. And Dr. Ball’s dynamic approach helps people understand how technology cannot only improve their daily lives but also empower diverse communities and individuals alike. They both will share thoughtful insights with our students as they step into the next phase of their own lives and career journeys.”

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Gebisa Ejeta, executive director of Purdue University’s Center for Global Food Security; Shankar Balasubramanian, the Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Cambridge University; WPI Professor Emeritus David Lucht; and Jack Mollen, former chair of WPI’s board of trustees.

James P. McGovern has represented Worcester and the surrounding area in Congress since 1997. Working tirelessly for the people of Massachusetts, he has brought home federal projects and funding, and partnered with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance legislation that has benefited his home state. A passionate advocate for human rights, he has spent his career in public service fighting to ensure that people everywhere have equitable access to education, literacy programs, and food. During his first term in the House of Representatives, McGovern led the effort to increase Pell Grant funding that helps make college affordable to low-income students. Since then he has also secured funding for programs that support childhood literacy and provide school meals for those in need. A Worcester native and longtime friend of WPI, he has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in public administration, both from American University in Washington, D.C.

Catherine Ball works across global projects where emerging technologies meet humanitarian, education, and environmental needs. From creating documentaries and world-leading conferences to advising on the use of novel approaches to environmental and humanitarian projects, she is a proponent of community engagement with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and likes to demystify emerging technologies.

An associate professor (honorary) in the School of Cybernetics at the Australian National University, Ball is the only Australian on the International Advisory Board of the Schmidt Ocean Institute. She serves as a mentor and advisor to the CEO of Women Who Drone and regularly mentors rising stars across STEM fields in Australia.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental protection, with honors, and her doctorate in spatial ecology and descriptive and predictive statistics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, in the United Kingdom.