Deval Patrick, governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, will deliver the MIT Commencement address on June 5, 2009.
Patrick was elected to office in November 2006. The first in his family to attend college, he studied English and American literature at Harvard and graduated with honors in 1978. He then spent a year in a United Nations youth training project in Darfur, Sudan, before entering Harvard Law School in 1979.
As governor, Patrick is a member of the MIT Corporation. Recently, he joined other members of the National Governors Association in petitioning the Obama administration for federal funding to support clean energy, education, public works and health care projects in Massachusetts. The governor has a particular interest in improving statewide energy efficiency, infrastructure and transportation, and he is recognized for his desire to leverage Massachusetts's strengths in education and scientific research as New England seeks economic stability.
"For MIT, an institution deeply committed to producing world-changing innovators and innovations, Governor Patrick's vision of Massachusetts as a global hub of transformational technologies is an inspiration and a call to arms," President Susan Hockfield said. "A champion of biotechnology, alternative energy and educational rigor, he makes an eloquent case that the Commonwealth's intellectual and entrepreneurial resources offer immense creative potential and economic value, even and especially in these difficult times. We could not ask for a more apt or inspiring speaker for our graduates this year."
W. Eric Grimson, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and chair of the Commencement Committee, shares the president's enthusiasm. "I am delighted that Governor Patrick has accepted MIT's invitation to speak at Commencement," he said. "[He] has been one of the most innovative political leaders in forging ties between research and educational institutions and state government. His Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative and his Clean Energy Initiative are great examples of cooperation between government and academia in finding solutions to challenging problems that affect all members of our community."
Oaz Nir, president of the Graduate Student Council, said the choice "highlights the way in which MIT research, particularly on energy, is in dialogue with policy decisions."
The governor's career includes service on the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and private practice with two Boston law firms.
President Bill Clinton appointed Patrick assistant attorney general for civil rights in 1994, in which role he pursued prosecution of hate crimes and abortion clinic violence, employment discrimination, and enforcement of fair lending laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Before election as the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, Patrick campaigned with the goals of increasing accessibility to government and encouraging civic engagement.
"It is exciting to have Governor Patrick as this year's guest speaker," said Undergraduate Association president Noah Jessop. "The governor and President Obama are both transformational figures within this state and nation, respectively. They are men who have embraced challenges that stood between them and the era of freedom and promise as we know it today. MIT is an institution rooted in the future: Governor Patrick's words should resound with many of the graduates who will go forth to be leaders in their fields and communities."
Guest speakers at recent MIT Commencements have included Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus (2008), President Emeritus Charles M. Vest (2007) and alumnus and Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke (2006).