The Inauguration of President Grace J. Wang, PhD

Grace Wang standing with arms folded

Impact Driven: Honoring Tradition, Innovating the Future

On Friday, March 22, 2024, Worcester Polytechnic Institute celebrated the installation of Grace J. Wang, PhD, as its 17th president. President Wang is an accomplished materials scientist and esteemed leader in higher education, government, and industry. Honoring our rich history and traditions, she will guide WPI toward the future by championing community and inspiring innovation. 

Fittingly, President Wang bookended her inaugural festivities with events celebrating those at the core of WPI’s mission: our students. Festivities included a student research showcase of undergraduate and graduate projects with real-world impact, campus tours highlighting our distinctive approach to education, a reception to celebrate our inclusive community—and more. 

Thank you to all who joined us in commemorating this historic moment.


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Inauguration Recap Video


Couldn't attend inauguration? Catch some of the most captivating moments in our recap video here. 

Or, to watch the full ceremony, go to the recorded livestream below.


Event Highlights

In true WPI spirit, we celebrated with a full day of festivities honoring our pioneering legacy. Relive some of the most memorable moments below.
Interim Provost Art Heinricher leads the procession into the inauguration ceremony
Inauguration Ceremony


Interim Provost Art Heinricher led the procession into the ceremony.

A member of the WPI ROTC Color Guard holds the Massachusetts state flag while marching in the procession
Inauguration Ceremony


Members of the ROTC Color Guard marched in the procession, dutifully carrying and protecting the American flag and Massachusetts state flag. 

Members of the WPI Brass Ensemble play their instruments behind the scenes during the ceremony
Inauguration Ceremony


The WPI Brass Ensemble and Medwin Honors String Quartet provided the ceremony's musical accompaniments, including "Limitless," an original composition by Robbie Oleynick ’24. Composed for the Inauguration, Oleynick's piece captures the spirit of WPI, exploring the imagination and persistence of an engineer while expressing the intersectionality of innovation.

Delegates from other colleges and universities sitting at attention in the front rows and wearing their academic regalia
Inauguration Ceremony


Dozens of delegates from other colleges and universities donned their academic regalia to celebrate President Wang's formal installation.

WPI President Grace Wang and three expert panelists sit on stage while discussing A.I. and the future of work
University Lecture: "AI and the Future of Work"


On the eve of her inauguration, President Wang moderated an expert panel on AI and the future of work. From left to right: President Wang, Terrence Sejnowski, Deepthi Bathina, and Steve Vassallo.

WPI President Grace Wang and three expert panelists sit on stage while discussing A.I. and the future of work
University Lecture: "AI and the Future of Work"


The dynamic panel of experts engaged the audience—and each other—with penetrating insights. 

WPI President Grace Wang and three expert panelists sit in front of a packed audience while discussing A.I. and the future of work
University Lecture: "AI and the Future of Work"


The hot-button conversation around AI's impact on future professions drew a packed house. 

WPI President Grace Wang and three expert panelists sit on stage while discussing A.I. and the future of work
University Lecture: "AI and the Future of Work"


Audience members stepped up to the mic and posed thought-provoking questions to the experts.

WPI President Grace Wang and three expert panelists sit on stage while discussing A.I. and the future of work
University Lecture: "AI and the Future of Work"


Artificial intelligence is a major initiative for the university, and President Wang's passion for future AI innovations shone through. 

WPI President Grace Wang, Interim Provost Art Heinricher, and three experts on A.I. posing together before the University Lecture Series panel event, "A.I. and the Future of Work"
University Lecture: "AI and the Future of Work"


Interim Provost Art Heinricher joined President Wang and the panelists.

On the day of WPI President Grace Wang's Inauguration, a campus tour group visits the cutting-edge Practice Point lab facility.
Campus Showcase


On a special campus tour for Inauguration, guests had the pleasure of getting a closer look at WPI's state-of-the-art labs and facilities. One such lab was PracticePoint, seen here, where our researchers are leading groundbreaking developments in medical technology.

Before the Inauguration of WPI President Grace Wang, VIP guests gather at a special luncheon
Inauguration Luncheon


Special guests were invited to a celebratory luncheon before the ceremony. 

President Grace Wang stands with elected leaders of Worcester and Massachusetts
Inauguration Luncheon


Elected state and local leaders, past and present, attended the luncheon in honor of President Wang. From left to right: State Sen. Robyn Kennedy, State Sen. Michael Moore, President Wang, State Rep. John Mahoney, State Rep. Kate Donaghue, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll. 

Steve Vassallo and his wife, Trae, stand outside in front of a bronze goat statue symbolizing Gompei, the WPI mascot.
Inauguration Luncheon


Steve Vassallo ’93 (left) and his wife, Trae, made a seven-figure commitment that lays the foundation for the Helen G. Vassallo Distinguished Presidential Professorship, named in memory of Steve’s mother and longtime WPI faculty member. 

Rev. Debora Jackson stands at the podium while delivering the invocation at President Grace Wang's inauguration.
Inauguration Ceremony


Rev. Debora Jackson '89 (MS), '00 (ME), dean of the WPI Business School, delivered a moving invocation at the beginning of the ceremony.

Gabriella Rios '24 stands at the podium while delivering a welcome speech to President Grace Wang at the inauguration ceremony
Inauguration Ceremony


Gabriella Rios '24, a biomedical engineering major, welcomed President Wang on behalf of the undergraduate student body.

Jezabel Aleyda Aponte Figueroa stands at the podium while giving a speech to welcome President Wang to WPI
Inauguration Ceremony


Jezabel Aleyda Aponte Figueroa ’24 (MS), a master's student in the Science and Technology for Innovation in Global Development program, represented the graduate student body in welcoming President Wang to WPI. 

Pamela (Giasson) Lynch stands at the podium while delivering a welcome speech at the Inauguration of President Wang
Inauguration Ceremony


Pamela (Giasson) Lynch ’05, president of the WPI Alumni Association, offered congratulations and a warm welcome to President Wang on behalf of the university's alumni. 

Rev. Kalvin Cummings stands at a podium while welcoming President Grace Wang on behalf of all WPI staff.
Inauguration Ceremony


Rev. Kalvin Cummings, assistant director of Religion and Spiritual Life, delivered welcoming remarks to President Wang as the WPI staff spokesperson. 

Professor Mark Richman delivers a welcome speech from the podium on stage at President Wang's inauguration.
Inauguration Ceremony


Mark Richman, associate professor of aerospace engineering and Secretary of the Faculty, bid President Wang welcome on behalf of all WPI faculty. 

Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty stands on stage at the inauguration ceremony and gives a welcome speech to President Wang
Inauguration Ceremony


Mayor Joseph Petty offered greetings to President Wang from the City of Worcester. 

Terrence Sejnowski stands on stage and delivers the keynote address during President Wang's inauguration ceremony
Inauguration Ceremony


Award-winning computational neuroscientist Terrence Sejnowski, PhD, delivered the keynote address focused on the revolutionary potential of artificial intelligence, a field in which WPI has spearheaded research and innovation for more than 50 years.

Associate professor George Heineman hands the WPI university charter to President Grace Wang during the inauguration ceremony.
Inauguration Ceremony


George Heineman, associate professor of computer science and chair of the WPI Faculty Committee on Governance, handed the university charter to Grace Wang, formally investing her as President of WPI. In May 1865, the Senate and House of Representatives for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued this charter and created the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science. This founding document is the official recognition of WPI and its mission.

WPI President Wang stands on stage wearing the presidential medallion and holding the university charter
Inauguration Ceremony


At the end of the formal investiture, President Wang proudly wore the presidential medallion, which carries the Great Seal of the Institute. The Seal records the founding philosophy of Theory and Practice (Lehr und Kunst), represented by the books and the arm and hammer. The seal also recognizes WPI’s foundation in the City of Worcester, at the heart of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The links in the chain that carry the medallion record the names of all WPI presidents. On this day, we added a seventeenth link to the chain.

WPI President Grace Wang stands at the podium and delivers her inaugural address.
Inauguration Ceremony


In her inaugural address, President Wang outlined her vision for the university and celebrated the achievements of the campus community: "With focus, determination, and collective effort, we will achieve a new level of excellence right here at WPI beyond our imagination."

WPI President Grace Wang and Presidential Medal recipient Judith Nitsch stand together on stage
Inauguration Ceremony


In her first act as president, Wang conferred Judith Nitsch ’75 Hon ’15, PE, LEED AP, with the Presidential Medal in recognition of her leadership and impact in support of WPI. The WPI Presidential Medal has honored outstanding individuals from all backgrounds and disciplines who embody the “technological humanist,” an ideal that has been at the heart of WPI's approach to education since its founding.

WPI Board of Trustees chairman Bill Fitzgerald, WPI President Grace Wang, and WPI Presidential Medal recipient Diran Apelian stand together on stage
Inauguration Ceremony


Diran Apelian, ScD, provost emeritus and founding director of the Metal Processing Institute at WPI, also received the WPI Presidential Medal in recognition of his leadership and impact in support of WPI. 

WPI faculty recess outside after the conclusion of the Inauguration of WPI President Grace Wang
Inauguration Reception


After the ceremony, the recessional led straight to the reception. The WPI Marching and Pep Band was standing on the quad, ready to facilitate the celebration.

WPI President Grace Wang waves to community members as she walks toward the inauguration reception
Inauguration Reception


President Wang was greeted with fanfare by her new community. 

Faculty marshal holds the WPI mace during the inauguration recessional
Inauguration Reception


Art Heinricher, faculty marshal and interim provost, showed off the WPI mace en route to the inauguration reception.

Members of the WPI Marching and Pep Band play music on the quad while the inauguration recessional passes by
Inauguration Reception


The WPI Marching and Pep Band played lively music on the quad immediately following the ceremony to get the celebrations started.

A man in a suit plays a black piano during President Wang's inauguration reception
Inauguration Reception


At the inauguration reception, staff and faculty gathered together over light refreshments to celebrate and congratulate President Wang. The event featured fresh food and drinks, lively conversation, and elegant music. 

Main Events

President Wang's official installation ceremony

  • We honored tradition, celebrated innovation, and paid tribute to President Wang in a stately ceremony befitting the historic occasion. 

Inauguration reception

  • Immediately following the ceremony, members of the WPI community gathered to welcome and congratulate President Wang.

Community celebration

  • We continued the celebrations with a night of line dancing, stuffed goats, giveaways, food, music, and more.

University Lecture

"AI and the Future of Work" 

On the eve of her inauguration, President Wang moderated a special edition of the annual University Lecture Series. This year's event featured a dynamic panel discussion on the intersection of technology and the future of work. 

The panelists: Deepthi Bathina '00 (MS), visionary CEO and founder of healthcare startup RhythmX AI; Terrence Sejnowski, PhD, pioneering and award-winning scientist in neural networks and computational neuroscience; and Steve Vassallo '93, general partner at Foundation Capital and celebrated entrepreneur. 

Archive Exhibits

"The First Faculty"

  • This exhibit showcased the first cohort of instructors that helped implement our founders' vision of theory and practice.

Archive Open House

  • The featured exhibit was “Video Game Console Wars,” as seen on WCVB’s "Chronicle." 
  • WPI’s archivists showcased some of the university's treasures and shared how they support our teaching and learning today.  
  • Yearbooks were also available for viewing.

"Creating a Place on the Hill: The Founding of WPI"*

  • This exhibit documented the founders and their shared dream of creating an educational institution in the heart of the American Industrial Revolution. 

Campus Showcase

Robotics and Lab Tours

  • In the robotics lab, guests learned about our research into soft robotics, human-robot interaction, manipulation, perception, autonomous robots, and 3D printing of soft robotic materials. 
  • In the Lab for Education and Application Prototypes (LEAP), they caught a glimpse of our revolutionary research in integrated photonics manufacturing.
  • At PracticePoint, they saw how our state-of-the-art motion capture lab and neuroscience suite lead to groundbreaking developments in medical technology.

WPI Student & Faculty Showcase

  • The impact of WPI students and faculty were on full display as guests learned about the pioneering projects and research initiatives that transform knowledge into innovation.
Preview Grace Wang waving to crowd at her WPI welcome event

About President Wang

Grace J. Wang, PhD, began serving as WPI’s 17th president on April 3, 2023. She is also a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at WPI.

Elected by the WPI Board of Trustees after an extensive national search, Wang comes to WPI from The Ohio State University (OSU) where she served as executive vice president for research, innovation, and knowledge, and as a professor in Materials Science and Engineering. At OSU, Wang’s efforts helped expand the university’s research and innovation ecosystem, achieving $1.38 billion in annual R&D expenditures during her tenure.

Preview Grace Wang speaking to the WPI community

'Our Shared Path Forward'

On her first day in office, President Wang sent a letter to the WPI community expressing her passion for the university's unique approach to education and her abiding belief in its mission:

I am excited about the work and the opportunities ahead and wholeheartedly believe that WPI has everything it takes to further excel. That which has stood the test of time can be further honed as we focus on our strengths and commit to a shared path forward. For our students, our faculty, our staff—and the world that needs what we have to offer—we will meet the moment. 

Preview Grace Wang smiling outside on campus

Q&A: Get to Know President Grace Wang

WPI's 17th president reveals what attracted her to the position, what's surprised her so far, and how she relaxes.

I look forward to listening and learning from the great minds who make WPI what it is and whose voices will play an essential role in defining our way forward.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I still watch the ceremony if I couldn't be there in person?

Yes, you can watch the full recording on the WPI YouTube channel.

What did the inauguration ceremony entail?

Every inauguration is different, and President Wang’s highlighted the best of WPI. The event began with a procession led by interim provost Art Heinricher, with the president, trustees, presidential medal recipients, delegates from other institutions, WPI faculty and department heads, and the ROTC color guard following behind. 

After the national anthem, invocation, and opening remarks, a sequence of WPI and Worcester community members offered their warm welcomes to President Wang. Then, our acclaimed keynote speaker delivered a timely address. The most meaningful portion, though, was the investiture ceremony, when the president received the university charter and seal. Then, in her first official act as president, Wang bestowed the Presidential Medal to two honored recipients.

What did President Wang talk about in her inaugural address?

“WPI is an innovative, learning community. Here, our students, faculty, and staff find their people, pursue their passion, and live their purpose,” Wang said in her address. “With focus, determination, and collective effort, we will achieve a new level of excellence right here at WPI beyond our imagination.” 

Wang outlined her vision for the university and celebrated the achievements of the campus community. She encouraged the WPI community to build upon the university’s proud 159-year history by focusing on providing a transformative STEM education; expanding high-impact research, innovation, and entrepreneurship; and creating an immersive campus experience for students, with an emphasis on well-being and belonging.

Who was the president of WPI before Grace Wang?

Laurie A. Leshin was WPI’s 16th president. Winston “Wole” Soboyejo served as interim president before Grace Wang was named.

Who was WPI's first president?

The first president of WPI—originally named the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science—was Charles O. Thompson, who served from the opening of the Institute, in 1868, until 1882.