Thousands of friends and family members packed Killian Court today for MIT’s 146th Commencement exercises. Many brought umbrellas in case of rain, only to use them as shade from the warm sun — a welcome guest after a week of wet weather in the Boston area. As their guests steadily filled Killian Court, graduates crowded into Rockwell Cage, a celebratory mood filling the air.
As they found their places in line, soon-to-be graduates posed for pictures and made last-minute adjustments to caps and gowns. Christopher Brathwaite, about to graduate with an SB in materials science and engineering, was hard at work affixing a handmade hat to his mortarboard.
“This hat got me an A,” Brathwaite said. The graduating senior had taken an MIT course in costume design, fashioning an Easter Sunday hat from gold and silver foil and other found objects. In addition to working with materials in the lab, he says, he had the opportunity at MIT to explore other interests outside his major. “It’s where one finds talents,” Brathwaite said.
In some cases, hidden talent may be what ultimately bonds students together. Reminiscing about some of their favorite moments at MIT, graduates of the master’s program in city planning recalled taking a break from design to organize a talent show for their department. “There were all these latent talents that none of us had gotten to see or experience from each other,” graduate Stephen Kennedy said. “We knew we had certain proclivities for planning, or different interests related to our major, but to see everyone perform was really exciting.”
Kennedy and other city planning graduates fashioned handmade cityscapes to their mortarboards, complete with cardboard buildings, plastic shrubbery and construction-paper waterfronts — a whimsical way to showcase their academic skills.
While many graduates festooned their regalia as a nod to their majors or departments, others sported mementos of their time at MIT. Qiaochu Yuan, who graduated with an SB in mathematics, taped a Burger King crown atop his mortarboard — a token with personal meaning for the graduate. “I have this friend, and one time we were both feeling kind of down, and decided we would cheer ourselves up by going to Burger King and getting crowns,” Yuan recalled. “Every time we needed some cheering up, we’d start wearing the crowns. Now I’m wearing this in solidarity.”
‘Incredibly proud’ parents
Indeed, making it through MIT is no small feat, as the thousands of families and friends who gathered in Killian Court know.
Theresa Rose came from Cincinnati with her family to watch her daughter, Kate Geyer, receive her undergraduate degree in physics. Geyer, Rose says, has always been a math and science lover, and had her sights set on MIT — an experience that was both rewarding and challenging.
“How do you tell kids coming in to expect it to be really hard, and not to worry about it?” Rose said. “I think they come in being the top of their high schools, from smaller towns across the world, and they have no idea that the curve looks different. It’s not easy, and I’m incredibly proud.”
Of course, being at the top of their respective classes may give students at MIT some common ground, particularly in their first days on campus. Xiping Murphy came to watch her daughter, Katelyn Gao, receive dual degrees in mathematics and economics. Murphy, who herself graduated at the top of her class in China, says when it came time for her daughter to choose a college, the choice was easy.
“She loves it here,” Murphy said. “We visited everywhere, and she said, ‘I fit in at MIT because I’m a nerd, and here are more nerds than anywhere else!’”