On the Eve of a New Era, Reflecting on Past Inaugurations

by Jay London on September 20, 2012 · 1 comment

in Campus Culture, Events, In the News, Media, Remember When...

On Friday, Sept. 21, a new era in MIT history officially begins with the inauguration of L. Rafael Reif as the Institute’s 17th president. The ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) on Killian Court and is open to the MIT community.

At past MIT inaugural addresses, new presidents described their visions for how the Institute should address that era’s most pressing needs. Many of those issues are still relevant today.

Highlights from past addresses include:

James Rhyne Killian

James Rhyne Killian ’26, president, 1948-1959 (April 2, 1949):

We must also recognize that science is a national resource out of which we can and must bring replacements and substitutes for depleted natural resources. In fact, one of the major responsibilities of science and technology in the years ahead will be the conservation of natural resources and the replacement of scarce materials by equally good or better substitutes.”

Jerome Bert Wiesner, president, 1971-1980 (October 7, 1971):

“Our first responsibility, as I have said, is to learning itself. Our second responsibility, since ours is the world’s foremost institute of technology, is to understand what our learning and discoveries may do to man and society, and to transmit that knowledge to new generations—to men and leaders who may be wiser than we in applying it, or wiser in judging how slowly or rapidly these technologies may be absorbed.”

Paul Edward Gray

Paul Edward Gray ’54, SM ’55, ScD ’60, president, 1980-1990 (September 26, 1980):

“We must, therefore, invent new ways of reaching those highly gifted people whose capabilities we have not fully tapped and whose talents we have not previously nurtured. The patterns of prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping in our society must be changed.”

Susan Hockfield, president, 2005-2012 (May 6, 2005):

“Many MIT faculty are working already on new routes to renewable and sustainable energy. We need to advance this scientific and engineering work, while focusing our efforts, and magnifying their impact, through our world-class expertise in economics, architecture and urban planning, political science, and management.”

For more information on past MIT presidents and inaugurations, visit the MIT Libraries presidential history section.  You can view papers dating back to William Barton Rogers, MIT’s first president, and inaugural addresses dating back to 1900.

In addition to the inaugural ceremony on Friday afternoon, symposia and community events—which open to the MIT community—are scheduled through Sept. 22.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eduardo Testart September 23, 2012 at 2:20 am

It is an honour for me being part of MIT and when we are able to read the comitments of many presidents we understand why MIT is unique. We hope that the words of James Killian and many others become reality.
Unfortunatelly our world doesn´t seem to join for the coming opportunities and needs… the pressure and blindness of those who have the power makes difficult the advancement toward a wiser world and better society.


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