Amid beaming friends and family and the cries of many babies, 203 doctoral students from MIT received their ceremonial hoods on Thursday afternoon in the Johnson Athletics Center.
"The faculty recognizes your change from the status of student to colleague," said Chancellor Phillip L. Clay, master of ceremonies. "There is nothing aristocratic or honorary about the status you have gained; it has been earned."
Clay was joined onstage by a slew of professors from many departments, President Charles M. Vest and Dean for Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert.
Acknowledging the range of academic regalia worn by fellow faculty (every alma mater has a different design), Clay gave a brief primer on the history of the garments. Although many parts of the regalia must be worn just so, he noted that "there is no standard way to wear your tassel, as one student asked about an hour ago."
He also noted that in 1995, MIT changed the design of its robe. "I see that some of you received that memo," he said, alluding to the fact that only about a third of the new graduates wore the new design (which is voluntary).
Clay went on to invest each graduate with his or her hood, assisted by Dean Colbert and a faculty representative from each department. Samuel J. Keyser, professor emeritus of linguistics and philosophy, read the name of each recipient.
People clapped and sometimes whooped when each graduate came to the podium. The family of Cynthia Perry, who received her doctorate in economics, went a step further, clanging cowbells as she donned her hood.