A History of MIT Commencement Speakers (Updated)

by Jay London on June 4, 2015 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Campus Culture, Events, In the News, Tech Reunions

Click the image for the full list.

Click the image for the full list.

Tomorrow’s MIT Commencement exercise will feature guest speaker Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88, the chief technology officer (CTO) of the United States.

Smith is the 22nd  MIT alumnus/ae  to speak at Commencement and the fourth in six years. She is the Institute’s 110th Commencement speaker dating back to 1880, the earliest year that MIT Commencement records exist at MIT’s Institute Archives and Special Collections. The list of non-MIT alumni speakers includes President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and 11 MIT presidents.

The most frequent MIT Commencement speaker? Francis A. Walker, MIT’s third president, who was the primary speaker 11 times between 1883-1896.

Perhaps the most notable event in MIT’s Commencement history occurred when there was no speaker. In 1970, during the peak of the United States’ conflict in Vietnam, the graduating class requested that then-MIT President Howard Wesley Johnson HM ’66 refrain from speaking in lieu of two minutes of silence for attendees to consider what can be done “to help resolve the conflicts which divide mankind in this country and around the world.”

The first half of the 20th century often featured more than one Commencement per year. Separate ceremonies were held from graduate and undergraduate students in the ’40s, and traditional students and military students often held separate ceremonies in the ’20s and ’30s.

Commencement speakers dating back to 1995 are listed below. Click on the image for the full list of MIT Commencement speakers dating back to Unitarian clergyman George E. Ellis, who addressed MIT graduates in 1880. Share your Commencement speakers memories in the comments below and on Facebook and Twitter.

Commencement

Click the image for the full list.

An earlier version of this article originally appeared on June 5, 2014. 

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