Three-dozen strollers were parked outside MIT's annual hooding ceremony, the family-friendly celebration of graduate students receiving Ph.D. or Sc.D. degrees that took place on Thursday, June 2, in Johnson Athletic Center--a standing-room-only event.
But many more adults cried than children: The sentimental overlap of past and future doesn't carry much weight with the sippy-cup set.
It was a day to ponder dreams, and Karen Eustice said she hopes her son, Noah, 9 months, will remember how exciting it was to see his father, Ryan Eustice, "walk in the procession in his cap and hood," celebrating his new Ph.D. from Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Inside the cavernous ice rink, Eustice's was one of 459 names read aloud, one of 459 gray and crimson hoods dispensed to signify the passage into membership in a "community of scholars that stretches around the world and back in time," as President Susan Hockfield remarked in her address.
Hockfield praised the degree recipients, emphasizing "newly created work, done on your own. In doing this, you've discovered something new about the world and something new about yourselves. You have reached the pinnacle of academic achievement."
Hockfield noted the faculty seated on the stage appreciated the work that went into these new Ph.D.s and Sc.D.s as few others do. "You have made sacrifices. Your families have made sacrifices," she said.
Chancellor Philip Clay remarked on the medieval roots and persistent idiosyncrasies of academic regalia. Individual faculty members modeled examples ranging from Carnegie-Mellon's bold plaid to the fluffy white bib of the University of Padua in Italy.
"This ceremony is informal, but it has a big and serious purpose: It witnesses your passage from students to colleagues. We look forward to years of association with you as members of the MIT extended family," Clay said.
Other members of the extended MIT family looked forward, too, as the next generation waited--children who would be the doctoral class of 2033, if they follow their parents' paths.
Keum Park (S.B. 1993) imagines just that for daughter, Lauren Park Roberge, 2 1/2. Park remembers how hard she and her husband, Christopher Roberge (S.B. 1993, Ph.D. 2005), worked as MIT undergraduates, and she offered a light take on what Hockfield meant by "sacrifices."
Currently residents of New Jersey, Park and Roberge lived in Next House as MIT undergraduates; they met "doing chemical engineering homework," she said. Roberge's doctoral journey meant their honeymoon was delayed a year. A patent attorney, Park supported Roberge for eight years, rather than the two she expected.
Park hoped her daughter would see the bright side of a "very long and bumpy journey. Mom and dad worked very hard, and we took you along for the ride. Just remember the smile on your dad's face," she said to her daughter.
As for Lauren's academic future, Park would "definitely like her to go to MIT. After hearing Susan Hockfield at the [Women's Leadership Conference held at MIT in April], I had a 'Wow!' experience. There is so much Lauren could do here," Park said.
Chris Lee was visiting MIT from Orlando, Fla., to celebrate his sister, Jennifer Lee, who received the Ph.D. in biological engineering. His daughter, Alison, 1, stayed awake for the ceremony and crashed for the reception.
"I hope she remembers the pride we all feel, how hard Jenny worked, and the pageantry of the day," Lee said on her behalf.
Annette Frese looked to the future and into the past as she held grandson Sanjay Govindarajan, 6 months. Sanjay's mother, Annette Govindarajan, received the Ph.D. in oceanography from Wood's Hole. His father, Arvind Govindarajan, received the Ph.D. in neurobiology.
Frese would like Sanjay to remember the light of this day--not only the bright sun but also the light of love and pride.
"I want him to remember the beautiful smile his mother gave him when she marched in," Frese said.
Frese's parents came from Italy during the Great Depression; she was the first in her family to go to college. Reflecting on her daughter's and son-in-law's MIT experiences, she said, "They had wonderful mentors. We're very proud of MIT. And we're proud to make America great."