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DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman will be MIT’s 2014 Commencement speaker

A champion of market-driven science, trained as an engineer, will address the Class of 2014 on June 6.
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Ellen Kullman
Ellen Kullman
Photo courtesy of DuPont

Ellen Kullman, trained as a mechanical engineer and now chair of the board and CEO of DuPont, will deliver the address at MIT’s 148th Commencement exercises on Friday, June 6, in Killian Court.

Kullman joined DuPont in 1988 and has led the company since 2009. As CEO, she has touted market-driven science as a means of propelling innovation. Her tenure has also been marked by a collaborative approach to development.

“Ellen Kullman describes the work of DuPont as ‘using science to improve the world,’” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “That mission resonates deeply with us at MIT, and this sense of kindred spirit has informed significant joint research with DuPont over the years. Through an aggressive focus on global trends in population, economics, and the environment, Ms. Kullman is leading DuPont in inspiring new directions, and we are delighted that she will share her perspective with us on Commencement Day.”

DuPont has a longstanding reputation for applying science to solve global challenges. The company introduces thousands of new products and patent applications every year, serving a wide range of markets including agriculture, food, electronics, solar energy, construction, and transportation. Founded in 1802, DuPont is now the manufacturer of many household-name products.

“Today, more than ever, science is critical to meeting the demands of the 21st century,” Kullman says. “At DuPont, we have used the power of science and our knowledge of the markets to transform industries for over two centuries. We have never been afraid to lead change, and that mission continues today. I am honored to welcome the graduating class of MIT to join the global community of solvers, inventors, and leaders as we all work together to solve the world’s toughest challenges.”

Kullman earned her bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Tufts University in 1978 and her master’s degree in management from Northwestern University in 1983. After working at Westinghouse and General Electric, she joined DuPont as a marketing manager. In 2002 she became group vice president of DuPont Safety & Protection, and in 2006 she was named DuPont’s executive vice president, with responsibility for three business platforms and several functions, including marketing and sales.

“Ms. Kullman’s career exemplifies MIT’s core values of using science and technology to transform the world around us,” says Undergraduate Association President Sidhanth Rao. “Coupled with her dedication to public service, MIT students can take many lessons from her journey.”

“Ms. Kullman’s professional success is admirable,” says Anika Gupta, president of MIT’s Class of 2014. “Her work to push the boundaries of applied science and engineering makes her an inspiration to MIT’s graduates.”

“For her commitment to improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the U.S., Ellen Kullman truly embodies the MIT spirit of using the power of technology and innovation ‘to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind,’ as MIT’s mission states,” says Graduate Student Council President Caleb Waugh. “We are honored to welcome her to MIT.”

Kullman is chair of the U.S.-China Business Council, and a member of the Business Council and the executive committee of SCI-America. She co-chairs the National Academy of Engineering’s Committee on Changing the Conversation: From Research to Action, and is a member of the board of directors for Change the Equation, a coalition of more than 100 CEOs committed to improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning for pre K-12 students in the U.S.

Kullman is a member of the board of directors of United Technologies Corp. She also serves on the boards of Tufts University and its School of Engineering.

“MIT students graduate from the Institute equipped with the tools to have an impact on the world, but they can benefit from great role models for how best to harness their ideas and passion to effectively lead change,” says MIT Chancellor Eric Grimson, who has long served on the Commencement Committee. “Ellen Kullman provides a wonderful example to our students, both through her own story of moving from an engineering background to leading a global company and through her championing of integrated science to drive innovation within DuPont. I am thrilled that she will share her insights and experiences with the next wave of MIT's graduates as they begin their own careers of innovative leadership.”

Kullman joins a notable list of guest speakers at recent MIT Commencements, including Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston ’05 (2013); Khan Academy founder Sal Khan ’98, MEng ’98 (2012); Xerox CEO Ursula Burns (2011); Raymond S. Stata ’57, chairman and co-founder of Analog Devices Inc. (2010); Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (2009); and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus (2008).

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