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Joy predominates as 1,794 receive degrees

In a day of shared joy for the graduates, their relatives and guests, MIT awarded degrees June 9 to 1,794 seniors and graduate students at its 129th Commencement exercises on sunlit Killian Court.

There was pomp, circumstance and prayer-and playfulness, too.

As the graduates received their degrees, some flung their arms into the air in gestures of triumph. There were also whoops and shrieks of pleasure as the ceremonies took on a festive air, which included bouncing balloons and beachballs.

A number of graduates expressed their individualism through constructions or designs on their mortarboards. Perhaps the most elaborate was a miniature TV set made of cardboard, worn by Gilberte Houbart of Paris, who received the SM in media arts and sciences. Trina Gavieres of Honolulu, who received the SB in art and design, used her mortarboard as an easel for an original painting by a fellow graduate, Lee Zamir of Forest Hills, NY, who received the SB in electrical engineering. A number of graduates wore hand-made necklaces of flowers, and a majority of the African-American degree recipients wore colorful kinte cloth strips over their academic robes, embroidered with the words Class of '95.

Several of the graduates carried their children onto the stage, among them Umair A. Khan of Karachi, Pakistan, who held his nine-month-old daughter, Samar, as he received his SM in electrical engineering and computer science.

Because some students received more than one degree, the total number of degrees-2,026-exceeded the number of students receiving them. Altogether, 961 bachelor of science degrees and 1,065 advanced degrees were awarded. The advanced degrees included 232 doctorates, 818 master of science degrees and 15 engineer degrees.

The School of Engineering awarded the most degrees, 1,091, followed by the School of Management, 373; School of Science, 351; School of Architecture and Planning, 115, and School of Humanities and Social Science, 96.

The degree recipients included 509 women.

In the morning, prior to the exercises, the MIT Corporation, the Institute's board of trustees, elected two life and nine term members at its quarterly meeting. (see story, this page.)

In the afternoon, 23 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.

The formal commencement activities began with the traditional academic procession, led by the chief marshal, R. Gary Schweikhardt, 1994-95 president of the MIT Association of Alumni and Alumnae.

Dr. Paul E. Gray, chairman of the MIT Corporation, presided at the exercises, which began with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem by Professor Ellen T. Harris, who is stepping down as associate provost for the arts.

The invocation was given by the Rev. Betsy Draper, MIT Baptist chaplain (see text, page 5.)

The commencement speaker, Dr. Hanna H. Gray, former president of the University of Chicago, told the graduates that much of the current criticism of higher education derives from a resistance to change, but that change is a positive force in universities (see text, page 5.) The previous day, Dr. Gray received an honorary doctorate at Harvard University's commencement.

MIT President Charles M. Vest, in his traditional charge to the graduates, offered a wish for a "life well-lived," but acknowledged that this would be a difficult achievement and require sacrifice in "a world permeated with both hope and despair." (See text, this page.)

Roger G. Kermode, president of the Graduate Student Council, delivered a salute to MIT from the graduate student body. Mehran Islam, president of the Class of 1995, presented the senior class gift, the Class of 1995 UROP Fund, to Dr. Vest. At a time of federal cutbacks in UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) funding, 27 percent of the class committed themselves to raising $54,000 over the next five years to fund first-time UROP students in innovative and creative research. The money includes matching funds from the 50-year Class of 1945.

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.

Those receiving doctoral degrees already had been hooded in a special ceremony on the day before commencement in Rockwell Cage.

At the close of the ceremonies, in a departure from the program, President Gray paid tribute to two departing members of the MIT family, Mary L. Morrissey, director of special events who serves as executive officer for commencements, and Provost Wrighton, who has stepped down to become chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. Miss Morrissey, who has been the chief coordinator for the myriad details involved in commencements for more than two decades, will retire in September after 45 years at the Institute. She was escorted onto the commencement stage to a standing ovation by Professor Martin Schlecht, who headed the Faculty Commencement Committee.

Following the Commencement program, President Vest held a reception for graduates and their guests-and for alumni both of the 50th reunion Class of 1945 and the 25th reunion Class of 1970-at several locations in or near McDermott Court.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 21, 1995.

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