MIT graduates receiving the Ph.D. or Sc.D. degree were invested with their long velvet-lined hoods in the Institute's traditional family-friendly hooding ceremony on Thursday, June 8, in Rockwell Cage.
President Susan Hockfield welcomed the 270 new doctorates, their families and friends to the event on behalf of the MIT faculty and Corporation.
"The central requirement for the doctoral degree is the creation of new knowledge; it is among the hardest of intellectual tasks. Each of you has ventured successfully into that new land: You have expanded the base of human knowledge, each in your own fields, as scholars before you have done for centuries. In doing so, you have prepared yourselves for lives and careers of discovery," Hockfield said.
"Make no mistake in understanding the potential of your hard-won new skills, because the world needs you as never before," she said.
Chancellor Phillip L. Clay greeted the standing-room-only crowd, complete with baby strollers in the back, small children playing tag among the chairs, and older parents and grandparents beaming with pride.
Following the MIT tradition of honoring the substance over the style of doctoral regalia, Clay offered a swift decoding of the robe-and-hood ensemble, whose roots run deep into the Middle Ages, when scholars' robes were needed for warmth and hoods were used to catch and store the meager coins their students tossed them. Today's regalia have little practical value but immense symbolic power: They reflect the international gold standard for denoting high academic achievement.
Clay served as the investor of hoods along with a faculty representative from each department or program. The names of the recipients were read by Isaac Colbert, dean for graduate students; Alice P. Gast, associate provost and vice president for research; and Samuel J. Keyser, professor emeritus in the department of linguistics and philosophy.
Applause and shouts of glee erupted about the room as the recipients crossed the stage. But families gathered on Thursday spoke of more than their soaring pride in these graduates' achievements. They described a sense of community on campus they would be sorry to lose.
Seemeen Saadat, wife of Bilal Zia, Ph.D. in economics, held their daughter Imaan, 2 1/2, by the hand as they waited to hear Zia's name and degree announced. Zia has a job with the World Bank; the family, originally from Pakistan, will move to Washington, D.C.
"We loved living at Westgate. We had friends here," she said. A specialist in economic development, Saadat had a "wonderful experience working with Spouses and Partners @ MIT," she said.
For Elizabeth Boudreau, whose husband, Kevin Boudreau, received the Ph.D. in management from the MIT Sloan School, it was "wonderful to be part of this community. We had lots of friends and so much fun socially," she said. The Boudreaus' 1-year-old daughter, Amelia, wiggled in her stroller as her mother strained to hear daddy's name. The family will move to France, where Boudreau has a job in HEC School of Management, outside Paris.
As Marek Pycia worked toward the Ph.D. degree in economics, his wife, art historian Anna Pycia, enjoyed their five years living in Westgate, she said.
"The MIT community is very friendly. I was very happy that as the spouse of a student I could borrow books from the libraries here. My favorite is Rotch. We were treated very well," she said. Natives of Warsaw, Poland, the Pycias will move to State Collge Pa.; Marek has a job there.
Michael Zhang, new Ph.D. in management, will be a professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology next fall, so he and his wife and their two daughters, Alantha, 4, and Ashley, 4 months, will move to Hong Kong after six years at MIT.
The Zhang family shared their fellow graduates' affection for the journey they shared while living at MIT. "Eastgate was a great community for us," Zhang said.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 14, 2006 (download PDF).