MIT President Susan Hockfield welcomed the Class of 2010 by stressing the Institute's spirit of collaboration and by recalling inspiring lessons from the lives of past scientists and inventors whose names -- including Archimedes, Darwin and Pasteur -- are carved on buildings that frame the famed lawn of Killian Court.
Hockfield stood at the head of Killian Court with the Infinite Corridor just behind her as she welcomed the newest class to MIT during the Aug. 27 Freshman Convocation. It was a gray morning ceremony marked by both laughter and tears.
"We gather this morning in the magnificent space we call Killian Court. This is the symbolic and ceremonial heart of the MIT campus," Hockfield said. "The next time we will all gather here together will be in the spring of 2010, when you will step forward to receive your degrees at Commencement."
Hockfield praised the rich history the freshmen will carry on. "The buildings around us carry the names of some of the world's great scientists and engineers, chosen by members of the MIT faculty as the Institute prepared for its move to Cambridge," Hockfield said. "Those selected -- from Archimedes and Aristotle to Darwin and Pasteur -- were all great seekers after truth, and catalysts for human progress."
In particular, Hockfield spoke of Benjamin Franklin -- "scientist, inventor and engineer" -- whose examples of discipline, teamwork and community service she encouraged the newest class to draw from.
"You, like Franklin and his friends, will educate each other. Collaboration is an important part of the MIT culture," Hockfield said. "While we are known for innovative competitions, it is important to remember that an event such as the annual $100K business plan contest is really all about teamwork. In that spirit of collaboration, you will push yourselves and one another to meet MIT's and the world's challenges."
The Institute will be like nowhere else the new students have studied, Hockfield said. "MIT is not simply high school on steroids," she said. "The curiosity and passion of the people who work and study here make MIT a uniquely intense environment."
The expectations are very high, but the freshman class was selected for its ability to meet them, Hockfield said. "You are among the most brilliant students anywhere in the world today. And all of you are here because we saw in you the extraordinary abilities and the commitment to exceptional achievement that are the essence of MIT," Hockfield said. "That is not to say it will be easy. MIT will challenge and test you just as it inspires you. As a result, you will accomplish things you never thought possible. You will raise the bar for yourselves."
Following her speech, the three Student Orientation Coordinators, Eddie Fagan and Will Fotsch, both juniors in electrical engineering and computer science, and Lara Kostun, a junior in chemical engineering, presented Hockfield with the "Book of the Class of 2010" signed by all members of the class.
Chancellor Phillip L. Clay, professor of urban planning, and Dean for Student Life Larry Benedict also took turns at the podium to greet the more than 1,000 new members of the MIT community.
In keeping with the 2006 Freshman Orientation theme of "Road Trip," Clay spoke of the new class's two journeys -- both the one that brought them to MIT and the one that they embark on upon arriving.
"As parents you have come from many directions," Clay said. But the journey was similar in that its mission was to "prepare your child to be the leader he or she can be."
Clay encouraged the students to applaud their parents and as they did, many parents wiped away tears. "While some new parental roles will be in order, these young people will need to come back to the well from which they have gained strength," Clay said.Â
To the Class of 2010, Clay said: "We look forward to being partners with you."
"You have left the place where you moved comfortably and confidently," he said. "Your new journey will demand that you be an agent in your own education."
Benedict spoke of the excellence he has encountered at MIT. "I am constantly being inspired by our students," he said.
He gave several examples of students whose sense of service, entrepreneurship and problem-solving had awed him. "You are all capable of doing just what these students have done," Benedict said.
Benedict also gave the students a small taste of what they can expect over the next four years. "You will constantly be inventing and reinventing yourself," he said. "You are entering one big learning laboratory."