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Thousands graduate in sun-soaked ceremony

Members of the Class of 2005 file into Killian Court for MIT's 139th Commencement exercises, held Friday, June 3.
Members of the Class of 2005 file into Killian Court for MIT's 139th Commencement exercises, held Friday, June 3.
Photo / Donna Coveney

Sunny skies and warm breezes welcomed the 2,308 men and women who received 1,107 undergraduate and 1,464 graduate degrees at the 139th MIT Commencement exercises, held Friday, June 3, in Killian Court.

MIT's Hindu chaplain, Swami Tyagananda, offered an invocation in Sanskrit and in English that reflected the large international crowd's spirit of unity and goodwill .

"May we come together for a common purpose. Common be our prayer, common our goal.

"May the one and the same Divine Reality ��� lead us. May we be granted clear understanding and the courage to pursue the goals of social justice, nonviolence, harmony and peace," he said.

It was "great day to graduate," said Commencement speaker Irwin Jacobs, the co-founder and CEO of Qualcomm, a leader in digital wireless technology. An MIT education is "about the best possible way to prepare yourselves for this very exciting future," he said.

Offering examples from his own life, Jacobs (S.M. 1957, Sc.D. 1959) encouraged the Class of 2005 to prepare for changes in their lives.

A native of New Bedford, Mass., Jacobs began college as a student of hotel management--his parents owned a restaurant--but switched to engineering, "by far the best preparation for any field." It's "very exciting to come up with ideas, be able to apply theory to things that were rather practical, rather useful," he said.

Jacobs served on the MIT faculty for seven years after receiving his doctorate. He urged the new graduates to consider teaching--"the best way to learn material"--then described how he co-founded Linkabit, a consulting firm, in 1969 and Qualcomm, the wireless giant, in 1985.

In suggesting to the new graduates that they need not be swayed by conventional wisdom, Jacobs laughed at the memory of how he simply "had not heard" of an industry forecast that a million cellphones would be in use by 2000. The real figure was 600 million, he declared with relish.

"If you go into your own business, the time will come when you have to make a decision," he said, noting that Qualcomm later moved away from devices and into chips.

Jacobs urged the degree recipients to see themselves and their accomplishments in a global context. A well-known philanthropist in education and the arts, Jacobs reminded the Class of 2005, "The opportunity for philanthropy never goes away."

Hockfield stresses values

President Susan Hockfield congratulated the Class of 2005 for the "successful completion of demanding courses of study" and challenged them to "put what you have learned here to work for the good of this nation and the world. We have never needed your talents and skills more."

Hockfield characterized MIT graduates as "uniquely equipped" to address issues in energy, climate change and global poverty, among others, and she urged them to ask themselves, "Where can I do the most good? How can I make a difference in the world?"

Hockfield also urged graduates to "transmit the values that define this community to the other communities that you will now join." These include "leadership as an opportunity to serve," integrity as the "touchstone of your judgments," "pursuit of truth," a "drive toward excellence" and "plain old-fashioned hard work."

Hockfield asserted, "I have tremendous faith in you. I know that in the years to come you will ��� surprise and delight us with achievements we could never have predicted."

Salutes from students

Barun Singh, president of the Graduate Student Council, saluted the Class of 2005, echoing themes introduced by Hockfield and Jacobs.

"We celebrate the hope and promise of times to come in the world we all share. You have demonstrated the ability to reason. Be open to unconventional solutions. Keep alive your passion and drive. The world needs this, and it waits for you," Singh said.

Rohit Gupta, president of the senior class, presented President Hockfield with the senior class gift, $31,000 for a new student lounge.

A site on the Infinite Corridor has been proposed for the lounge. It will be a "space for conversation and collaboration," said Hockfield .

Dana Mead, chairman of the MIT Corporation, officially convened and concluded the exercises. The MIT Chorallaries led the crowd in Killian Court in one verse of the Star Spangled Banner, with the Class of 1955 providing a spontaneous and moving baritone section, stage left.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 8, 2005 (download PDF).

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