Yunus to Give 2008 Commencement Address

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Jason R. Kelly G receives his doctoral hood for completing his degree in Biological Engineering at the hooding ceremony in Rockwell Cage yesterday.
Michael Y. McCanna

Ten thousand people are expected to attend this morning’s Commencement exercises, at which a Nobel laureate will speak and about 2,300 students will receive almost 2,600 degrees.

This year’s Commencement address will be delivered by Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his development of microlending and for his work in alleviating global poverty.

In addition, President Susan Hockfield will address the graduates, and Institute Chaplain Robert M. Randolph will deliver the Invocation. Outgoing Graduate Student Council President Leeland B. Ekstrom will offer a salute from the graduate student body. 2008 Class President Phi T. Ho will present this year’s Senior Gift, a fund that will support students working outside MIT during January’s Independent Activities Period.

According to Registrar Mary Callahan, 2,334 students confirmed they were attending the ceremony located in Killian Court, with 983 undergraduates receiving 1,140 undergraduate degrees and 1,351 graduate students receiving 1,453 graduate degrees.

About 150 students who received degrees in September 2007 or February 2008 will also walk across the stage today.

Each graduating student received four commencement tickets, and each faculty member who marches in Commencement can request one ticket. But because some graduating students hope to seat far more guests (or far fewer), a robust ticket distribution network has evolved over the years.

The Class of 2008 has set up a Web site at which people can advertise that they have extra tickets to give away or need extra tickets. Meanwhile, dormitory e-mail lists are full of offers to give away, sell, or buy tickets. And as of press time, 18 Craigslist posts offer to sell tickets at prices from $40 to $100.

Guests who don’t have a ticket will be able to view the exercises at many locations set up around campus. (The located are advertised online at

In case of inclement weather, additional viewing venues will be provided, Gayle M. Gallagher, executive officer for Commencement, said in an e-mail.

The ceremony can also be viewed online starting today at

The level of security during the exercises will be as high as it has been for MIT Commencement exercises since Sept. 11, 2001, Gallagher said. All guests must pass through metal detectors when entering Killian. Only guests with tickets or event staff with credentials will be permitted onto the court.

Concessions will be available for purchase on Killian Court again this year. “This was a break-even proposition last year but [food vendor] Sodexho is again committed to donating any monetary proceeds this year to the Senior Class Gift,” Gallagher said in an e-mail.

This year’s Commencement is the 142nd that MIT has held. But the Class of 2008 will be the 141st class to graduate from the Institute. Why the discrepancy? Because of World War I, MIT held no Commencement exercises in 1918 or 1919. During World War II, MIT held “double exercises” in 1942, 1943, and 1944. There have been three extra Commencements and two skipped Commencements — a total of one extra.

Seniors donate to externship fund

MIT encourages graduating seniors to donate money, in what the Institute calls a Senior Gift campaign. This year, 645 seniors donated $16,454, representing a record-high 64.2 percent of the class. Last year, 52 percent of the graduating class donated, which was at the time a record-high percentage.

All MIT donors can specify a particular group or fund to receive their gift. Of the 645 seniors who donated, about 317 specified that their donation should go towards the class gift, which this year is an externship fund meant to support students working outside MIT.

Those students donated about $7,000 to the fund, according to Senior Gift Adviser Rosheen B. Kavanagh, of the MIT Alumni Association.

The senior class gift will support students who take on otherwise unpaid work during January’s Independent Activities Period as part of the Alumni Association’s externship program.

In IAP 2008, 269 students participated in externships through the program.

An additional $25,000 will be donated to the externship fund by Harbo Jensen PhD ’74, Alumni Association president, who had agreed to make the donation if more than 55 percent of the class donated money.

“This class is really special. They should be so proud of what they did,” Kavanagh said.

“We hope they continue to support MIT after graduating,” she added.