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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Welcome Susan Hockfield by Ben Jones

A recap of Susan Hockfield's inauguration.

Just got back from the inauguration of MIT’s sixteenth president, Susan Hockfield. Both of the office cameras were checked out by others, so I’ve failed you in the photo department. But I’ll try to describe the event for you as best I can.

The ceremony took place in Killian Court. It was fairly packed, with much of the MIT community representing, as well as various other folks from Cambridge/Boston and the rest of the world.

Things kicked off with the Honor Guard – representatives of the MIT Campus Police, who brought in a bunch of flags (USA, Massachusetts, MIT) and positioned them on stage. According to the program, they were accompanied by the MIT ROTC cadets, but I couldn’t see them from where I was sitting.

Next came the big procession with a LOT of people in academic robes. This included not only key members of MIT’s faculty and administration, but 63 (by my count) presidents of other colleges and universities – including Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, etc. Quite a showing of respect by our academic peer institutions – magical.

Dana Mead, chairman of MIT’s corporation, welcomed us all before introducing a shared performance by Gamelan Galak Tika and Rambax.

Reverend Amy McCreath (MIT’s Episcopal chaplain) then offered the invocation – a nice passage on the various communities of the world who need MIT and whose voices call out to us. Next, the Chorallaries did a beautiful job of singing the national anthem.

Alison Richard (Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University), speaking on behalf of the global academic community, gave President Hockfield a warm and heartfelt welcome. Towards the end she remarked, “never again will anyone have to stand up here and welcome the first female president to MIT” – which received enormous applause from the crowd. Her welcome was followed by a nice performance by the MIT Chamber Chorus.

Professor Steven Lerman, the chair of the inaugural committee, took the stage next and officially presented Dr. Hockfield to the community. The investiture followed, led by Dana Mead and assisted by past MIT presidents Howard Johnson, Paul Gray, and Chuck Vest.

Finally, the moment we’d all been waiting for – Susan Hockfield’s inaugural address. To say the least, it was pretty awesome. I’m sure the text will be transcribed at some point, and I’ll link to it when that happens. [Edit: it’s been posted here.]

You may remember my post from way back in 2004 when the selection of Dr. Hockfield was first announced. In her first speech to the community, she said “I want MIT to be the dream of every child who wants to make the world a better place.” That’s still a big part of her mission – to get kids involved in science and technology (and by extension, in MIT’s mission) at as early an age as possible.

But today she expanded on that mission and talked about the vast responsibility that the MIT community has to the world.

To paraphrase what I took away from her speech: once we become a part of this community, we can no longer just want to make the world a better place; we are compelled to do so.

Said President Hockfield, “With our expertise in interdisciplinary problem-solving, MIT is uniquely equipped, and obliged, to make a critical difference: to do the analysis, to create the innovations, to fuel the economy and to educate the leaders the world needs now. In that context, and understanding that profound responsibility, I believe MIT must step up to the great global challenges of our day.”

It’s a new era for MIT. And a very exciting one.

Anyway, that was pretty much it. The masses then did what we do best at MIT: find and consume the free food. ;-)

[Edit: the video of the whole thing is already up! I love how fast MIT is with that stuff… you can find it here.]

13 responses to “Welcome Susan Hockfield”

  1. Saad Zaheer says:

    wow, First!

    and it was so grt to know all this,
    congratulations to President Hockfield and MIT!

    Congrats to all of us, =)

  2. 09Mom says:

    that’s funny leftcoast mom. how many times have i wondered if i could take the spot my daughter opened up. then i realize there is no way in heck i want to repeat college. what i do want is everything else not associated with grades. MIT is incredible, there is no other institution like it!!!
    thanks for the link Ben

  3. Meder says:

    cool… just cool

  4. I watched the webcast of the ceremony from here on the left coast, and I agree: Dr. Hockfield’s address was *awesome*. I not only want the transcript, I hope for a video link so everyone can see it for themselves!

    PS: Any chance y’all will consider enrolling parents, too, so we can be part of making the world a better place? Or are we considered to have done that already, by virtue of having nurtured children whom we send to y’all? smile

  5. Ben says:

    One quote from President Hockfield’s speech that I forgot to mention:

    “MIT is like a stadium with no seats; everyone is in the game, sometimes 24 hours a day.”

    How perfect is that?!?

  6. Laila Shabir says:

    august is just tooooooo far…. :(

  7. Kiersten says:

    My parents totally want to steal my spot at MIT.

    I want one of those hats, I would wear it all the time, I mean they go with everything…


  8. How about this quote?

    “But for MIT to help build a better world, we must be able to build on the strength of our own community right here. We need to do everything we can to make sure that MIT becomes an even more inspiring, more welcoming and more enriching place to work and to live. … Some steps are simple. MIT has always welcomed remarkable numbers of first-generation college students; to maintain that commitment, we need to amplify our ability to offer financial aid.”

    Hmmm… I look forward to working on making this happen soon in our collective future…

  9. Sophia says:

    President Hockfield’s address was so inspiring. This is kind of a silly question, but I noticed a few people with really large red hats which stood out on the webcast, do you know the background on that?

    P.S. I was pretty impressed by MIT’s promptness as well.

  10. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong here, please?)

    Sophia, those puffy hats originate (mostly?) in countries other than the US. They are known as “Tudor bonnets” and are specific in color to the university from which the wearer received their Doctorate, as are the academic robes worn with them. According to the “official News Report” Ben cites above, representatives from 61 universities worldwide attended the ceremony, and each wore the robes and caps/bonnets from their respective institution. That’s why you saw such variation in attire and headgear: fascinating, wasn’t it? I also loved that they marched in order of their institution’s founding, with Oxford first (founded in *1249*!!) They’ve probably changed their robe and bonnet designs a little in 750 years, though, y’think?

  11. rose says:

    the red floppy hats are definitely a historical relic and were used here to signify the procession Marshals – the marshals were the leaders of each sub-group of the processesion and picked to lead/herd that constituency through the walk. For example, one of the Associate Deans for Student Life was a Marshal for the student section.