His Highness the Aga Khan, who was admitted to MIT 40 years ago, finally made it to a graduation Friday-and in grand style, as speaker at the Institute's 128th commencement.
In sunny but chilly weather more suitable to fall than spring, MIT awarded degrees to 1,824 seniors and graduate students in outdoor exercises at Killian Court before about 8,000 relatives.
Because some students received more than one degree, the total number of degrees-2,034-exceeded the number of students receiving them. Altogether 962 bachelor of science degrees and 1,072 advanced degrees were awarded. The advanced degrees included 234 doctorates, 820 master of science degrees and 18 engineer degrees.
The degree recipients included 505 women.
In the morning prior to the exercises, the MIT Corporation, the Institute's board of trustees, elected one life member, nine term members and an officer at its quarterly meeting. (See below.)
In the afternoon, about 30 graduating cadets and midshipmen in MIT's Army, Air Force and Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) units received their commissions at the frigate USS Constitution berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard Historical Park. (See photo on page 3).
The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and director of a network of development institutions working in Asia and Africa, told the graduates that the world must be prepared to draw upon the wisdom of three different cultures-those of "the ex-Communist world, the Muslim world and the Western world"-in solving the problems of modern society. (The full text of his adress appears on page 7).
He also revealed that MIT had been his first choice when he applied to college, but that he attended Harvard, from which he graduated in 1958, in deference to his grandfather, the Aga Khan III, who preceded him.
"In fact. I didn't even apply anywhere other than MIT and MIT accepted me on the basis of my grades," said the speaker, who succeeded his grandfather as Aga Khan at the age of 20. "When my grandfather told me I shouldn't enroll here, I was devastated. That really put the kibosh on my plans to study science." And he added, "You see, I learned Harvard English."
MIT President Charles M. Vest, in his traditional charge to the graduates, called upon them to be "citizens of the world."
"MIT is an American institution, and each of you is a citizen of some nation-for most of you, that nation is the United States of America," he said. "But MIT is also an institution of the world, and its greatness derives in large measure from its cosmopolitan nature and its connections throughout the world." (Dr. Vest's address appears on page 6).
Dr. Vest noted that the Class of 1994 "is also my class," since the graduating seniors arrived at MIT in 1990 at about the same time he did as MIT's 15th president.
The moment when he first met them as a group during their orientation week, he said, "was one of the most exhilarating of my life.
"On that day we were all proud to have been selected to join the ranks of MIT. We shared in the exhilaration of becoming part of its intellectual and creative atmosphere. But to tell the truth, we were also a little apprehensive. Nonetheless, we knew that were all embarking on the next stage of a great adventure.
"I said to you that day that I hoped you would accept me as a member of your class, and trusted that you would allow me to live and work among you. I also noted that I looked forward to the one other occasion when I would be standing before you in a formal setting. And that would be in Killian Court-at your graduation in the spring of 1994.
"Well, we made it: here we are!"
The graduates responded with applause and cheers.
Caryl B. Brown of St. Petersburg, FL, president of the Graduate Student Council, delivered a salute to MIT from the graduate student body. Ann Chen of Lexington, MA, president of the Class of 1994, presented the senior class gift to Dr. Vest. Pledges over the next five years of about $43,000, a record amount, will be used to construct and equip a student information and box office-to be called The Source-on the first floor of the Stratton Student Center.
The formal commencement activities began with the traditional academic procession, led by the chief marshal, Richard A. Jacobs of Northbrook, IL, 1993-94 president of the MIT Association of Alumni and Alumnae.
Dr. Paul E. Gray, chairman of the MIT Corporation, presided at the exercises. In his closing remarks, he paid a "special welcome" to the World War II-torn 50th reunion Class of 1944, many of whose members did not get to attend their graduation ceremonies.
"This class entered the Institute before the United States entered World War II, and may have had the expectation-not held by later wartime classes-of a normal completion of their undergraduate studies," he said.
"For most members of the Class of 1944, this was not to be. The records of the Institute indicate that, of all wartime classes at MIT, the Class of 1944 may well have experienced the greatest disruption. Most who entered with this class did not receive their diplomas until after the war, if at all. Many did not return from the war.
"Today, as you return to Tech for your 50th reunion, we extend a special welcome to you. May your participation in these Commencement ceremonies recognize and reaffirm your very special place in the history and the family of MIT."
The invocation was given by the Rev. Scott Paradise, MIT Episcopal chaplain. (See Page 7).
For the awarding of degrees, Dr. Vest presented diplomas to the bachelor of science degree recipients and also those receiving both bachelor of science and master of science degrees, while Provost Mark S. Wrighton gave out advanced degrees. The two lines of students approached the stage simultaneously, and the names were announced in an alternating pattern as the degrees were handed out.
High spirits were in evidence as a few civil engineering graduates wore hard hats with tassels, another graduate carried his child on stage, and a number of graduates gestured to show profound relief at having the degrees in their hands. Meanwhile, balloons and soap bubbles occasionally rode the persistent breeze that at times lifted the sail-like cover over the stage
Those receiving doctoral degrees already had been hooded in a special ceremony on the day before commencement in Rockwell Cage.
MIT's newest doctoral degree recipients-some 375 altogether-received the colorful hoods that symbolize their achievement at a special ceremony May 26.
Graduate School Dean Frank E. Perkins, who presided, told the graduates that completion of the doctorate "is one of the major goals to which any prospective scholar can aspire. But at MIT-with its traditional insistence on excellence, its deserved reputation for rigor, and its intention to attract and educate world-class scholars-completion of the doctorate is an occasion deserving of special recognition."
Professor Perkins said it was important to acknowledge "just how essential your completion of the doctorate is to the world community.
"In an age in which so much of society questions the value of advanced level education and operates on the misguided assumption that new knowledge can be created on demand, it is essential that some significant subset of the community retain its commitment to pursuit of the highest levels of academic achievement. We thank you for having chosen this path and for having preserved
Following the commencement program, President Vest held a reception for graduates and their guests-and for alumni both of the 50th reunion Class of 1944 and the 25th reunion Class of 1969-at several locations in or near McDermott Court.
A version of this
article appeared in the
June 1, 1994
issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume