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Click and Clack keep joking as they prepare for ceremony

Promises, promises.

Commencement speakers Tom and Ray Magliozzi promised to arrive at MIT last Friday morning in Tom's "new" 1952 MG TD. The red one. The apple of his eye. But there was a problem... or two.

"It wouldn't start," said Ray.

"It only seats one," said Tom.

They also vowed that all they would wear under their academic regalia was boxer shorts. But underneath his robe, Ray, 50, was spiffy in beige trousers, discreet Hawaiian shirt and blue blazer while brother Tom, 61, wore a somewhat brighter blue Hawiian shirt and darker pants. "Maybe I shoulda worn a jacket," said Tom -- the bearded one -- in the robing room before the ceremonies.

Until Friday, they swore that never would they reveal who was Click and who was Clack. That resolution fell by the wayside in the first few minutes of their Commencement address. Click (SB 1958) is Tom; Clack is Ray (SB 1972).

Hyperbole is intrinsic to the wild mix of fact and fantasy that characterizes Car Talk, their popular National Public Radio call-in show.

Clearly, there was no way their Commencement entourage could have wedged itself into Tom's MG or any vintage sports car, for that matter. Bowing to necessity, they came in Monique Magliozzi's new Volvo -- she's the self-declared "beloved first and trophy wife" of Ray. Also in the robing room entourage:

  • Joanne, who describes herself as "the long-suffering wife of Tom." She's the one with the old Volvo.
  • Andrew, 16, son of Monique and Ray, wearing a violent green cast on his arm, the legacy of a football accident.
  • Lydia and Dave Icke -- she's Tom's daughter. "Thank heaven they didn't bring the children," a member of the family muttered facetiously.
  • Lucille Magliozzi, Tom and Ray's sister, a musician who believes she deserves "a purple heart for being the middle child."

It was Lucille who helped Tom struggle into his academic regalia in the Building 13 robing room, neatly turning the collar of his blue Hawaiian shirt out to fit over his doctoral hood. "Jeez, there aren't any pockets," he said. As he plopped the multicornered black academic beret on his head, he asked, "Is this the speaker's thing?" Then he tucked his dark glasses into the neck of his gown. His doctoral hood bore the colors (red and white) of Boston University, where he received his PhD.

Although Ray doesn't have a doctorate, MIT gave him the regalia anyway, in the MIT colors of cardinal and gray.

Minutes later, the Magliozzis took their places in the academic procession, walking from Memorial Drive to the podium in front of the Great Dome to the tune of Institute Professor John Harbison's Fanfare, as played by the MIT Brass Ensemble. On the podium, wedged between flags of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and MIT, was the newly minted Car Talk flag with the slogan Non impediti ratione cogitatonis (Unencumbered by the Thought Process -- see story above).

After Commencement, Tom and Ray Magliozzi and the robing room entourage joined more friends and family for the annual Corporation luncheon in the Student Union -- Tom's son Alex; Aunt Josie Calaresso, who recently retired from MIT's Department of Biology at age 83; and her sister Annie Scali. From the Car Talk show were Doug Berman, Doug Mayer and John (Bugsy) Lawlor.

Corporation Chairman Alex d'Arbeloff introduced the Magliozzi contingent to the assembly starting with Tom's wife Joanne. But both Joanne and Monique Magliozzi stood up at the same time. "How come when I introduced Tom's wife two women stood up?" asked Mr. d'Arbeloff. "Because the other two couldn't make it," Tom shot back.


Mr. d'Arbeloff presented the Magliozzis with "two elegant, ingenious -- and very heavy -- gifts" -- clocks "that we think of as akin to kinetic sculpture." Assistant Professor Samir Nayfeh and Edmund Golaski (SB 1999) of the Department of Mechanial Engineering oversaw their execution.

The clocks, Mr. d'Arbeloff said, were built from "ordinary items founding lying around any home workshop -- plus a mere $250,000 worth of additional material and equipment." The clocks are encased in bell jars, allowing observation of the four gears and a seemingly immobile second hand. The aluminium armature, holding the gears, is topped by a replica of the Great Dome. Engraved on the top three gears are Dewey, Cheetham and Howe -- Tom and Ray's legal "advisors."

Even in the face of these highly unusual and handsome gifts, the irrepressible Ray blurted out, "What's the warranty on these things?"

A version of this article appeared in the June 9, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 33).

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