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.
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.]