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Over 2,000 students awarded degrees at MIT Commencement

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- MIT President Charles M. Vest and Provost Robert A. Brown presented degrees to 2,087 undergraduates and graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's 133rd Commencement on Friday on Killian Court.

A total of 1,090 seniors and 997 graduate students, one-third of them women, marched down the aisle to receive their diplomas before 8,000 proud relatives and friends and members of the class of 1949, celebrating their 50th reunion. Because some students earn more than one, 2,401 degrees were conferred.

During the 1998-99 academic year, 2,832 persons received 3,195 degrees, including 894 women and 654 minorities. The degrees included 485 doctoral degrees, 17 engineers' degrees, 1,456 masters' degrees, and 1,237 bachelor of science degrees.

For the year, the School of Engineering awarded 1,703 degrees, followed by the School of Science with 555, the Sloan School of Management with 540, the School of Architecture and Planning, 214, and the School of Humanities and Social Science, 171. The Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology conferred 12 degrees.

At Commencement, Dr. Vest presented diplomas to the bachelor of science degree recipients and those receiving both bachelor of science and master of science degrees. Provost Brown, presiding at his first Commencement as provost, gave out the doctoral, engineering and other master's degrees. The two lines of students approached the stage simultaneously as their names were announced in an alternating pattern.

Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow presided at a special hooding ceremony for persons receiving doctoral degrees on Thursday.

The Commencement speakers were MIT graduates Thomas F. (SB 1958) and Raymond L. (SB 1972) Magliozzi, known as Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, hosts of the NPR radio series Car Talk.

For the occasion, they unfurled the 4-by-6-foot Car Talk flag, emblazoned with the slogan Non Impediti Ratione Cogitatonis (Unencumbered by the Thought Process) surrounding a seal showing the fins, taillights and bumper of a 1959 Cadillac. They say it memorializes the rear end of Tom's recently deceased 1963 Dodge Dart. It has a raccoon tail on the trunk. The colors are purple, red, black and white.

The Magliozzis were invited to deliver the Commencement address this year as a change of pace, following President William J. Clinton last year and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan the previous year. In responding to the brothers' complaint that they had not been invited to address the graduates in 1997, MIT President Charles M. Vest jokingly noted that the UN had "a really spiffy flag." He added: "You can imagine how useful such a flag can be when you want to cheer up a drab corner of the campus." As MIT graduates, the brothers knew a problem set when they saw one. They designed their own flag, aided by website designer Public Interactive.

While President Clinton arrived via helicopter a year ago surrounded by Secret Service agents and political advance men, Click and Clack expected to travel alone in Tom's vintage 1952 MG TD. They planned to wear full academic regalia, including black faille robes with velvet trim and an eight-sided black tam with gold tassel provided by MIT.

After the Magliozzis' address, President Vest delivered the charge to the graduates. Other speakers were Brian J. Schneider, president of the Graduate Student Council, and Pooja Shukla, president of the Class of 1999. The invocation was given by Rabbi Joshua M. Plaut, MIT's Jewish chaplain.

The Boston Brass Ensemble, under the direction of John Corley, played on Killian Court. In honor of the members of the 50th Reunion Class, Ellen T. Harris, Class of 1949 Professor of Music, sang the National Anthem.

The formal activities began at 9:45 am with the traditional academic procession from 77 Massachusetts Avenue to Killian Court, led by the chief marshal, John Morefield, 1998-99 president of the MIT Association of Alumni and Alumnae.

A commissioning ceremony for graduating cadets and midshipmen in the Army, Air Force and Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) units was scheduled for Friday at 6pm under the masts of the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard Historical Park. The speaker will be Rear Admiral John B. Padgett III, commander of Submarine Group Two in Groton, CT.

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