MIT President Susan Hockfield welcomed the Class of 2011 by challenging the incoming first-year students to follow Louis Pasteur's lead in making extraordinary discoveries that enrich people's lives.
Standing at the head of Killian Court during the Aug. 26 Convocation and Welcome, Hockfield formally greeted hundreds of students and their parents with a call to embrace history and invent the future.
"Welcome to the epicenter of science and engineering, of economics and entrepreneurship, of global studies and urban planning and more," Hockfield said. "MIT is where society and science converge. We're counting on you to make our world a better place."
Hockfield noted that the students gathered in the audience were members of what will become MIT's sesquicentennial class. Their graduation in 2011, 150 years after William Barton Rogers founded MIT, will be an important milestone in the Institute's history.
In the same era in which Rogers was laying the foundation for MIT, Hockfield said, Pasteur was making key contributions in the nascent field of experimental biomedicine. But the French scientist was also establishing links between science and industry so that theory could be turned into practice--a tradition that lies at the core of MIT's mission.
"Pasteur understood that we cannot realize the full promise of science if we do not open avenues for its application to people's lives," Hockfield said. "MIT walks--as you do--in Pasteur's footsteps. That's true in a very practical sense because the work he began continues here."
Hockfield told the incoming students that they had been selected from the largest and most competitive pool of applicants in the Institute's history. Their ranks, she said, include science and math Olympians, winners of the nation's most prestigious academic prizes, world-class musicians, athletes, circus performers and at least one cow breeder.
Chancellor Phillip L. Clay and Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel Hastings also took turns addressing the audience. Reprising a theme from last year, Clay encouraged students to applaud their parents for helping them on the journey that has led them to MIT.
After the ceremony, Hockfield, Clay and Hastings took part in a receiving line where they personally welcomed new students and their families. Freshman Emily Prentice, 18, of Vienna, Va., was among those who shook hands with the university leaders.
"I went to a challenging high school so I'm excited about working hard and learning a lot. I'm looking forward to it rather than dreading it," said Prentice, a bioengineering student and one of more than a dozen students from her high school admitted to MIT this year.
Audience members also included freshman Andre Thomas, 17, of Kingston, Jamaica. Thomas, who witnessed the fury of Hurricane Dean back home before arriving Aug. 24 in Cambridge, said it was "surreal" being at MIT.
"I look forward to taking advantage of my time here," said Thomas, who will be studying chemical engineering. "We're being challenged to do our best."