Campus Life

Brouhaha Rhythm

Categories: “Fictional MIT Alumni”

Having now seen Iron Man at least three times on a screen with more square footage than my dorm room, I have by now heard at least three times that Tony Stark graduated from MIT “summa cum laude,” to our everlasting bemusement. Tee-hee-hee. Obviously, since MIT does not give out Latin honors or have class rankings (rendering Weird Al’s white and nerdy achievements conveniently unverifiable), this would be impossible. Unless, of course, MIT administrators both a) found Tony Stark’s underage aptitude worthy of a change in policy, and b) decided that hoity-toity Latin honors would be more befitting the reputation and background of the Institute than modifiers such as “12th level intellect,” “Ph.D. in Epicness,” “Jedi Uber-Master,” or some combination of the above. At this juncture, I’m not really sure whether (a) or (b) is the less likely. To be fair, the “summa cum laude” gaffe stems from way back in Iron Man’s origins in the comics, so the movie’s mistake actually represents faithfulness to the comic book canon, rather than simply poor research. (Sam Raimi, take note.)

That being said, it’s nice knowing that a fictional multi-billionaire superhero did his school proud by successfully building an armored, flight-capable exoskeleton with a debugging stage about as short as the climactic fight scene. I think it would have been more realistic if his first test flight from his Malibu mansion had been spent taunting Caltech instead of buzzing the local fair and tragically demolishing a beloved automobile, but even so, Stark clearly embodies the MIT traditions of exploration, inventiveness, and piano destruction. I doubt Bruce Wayne could say the same, unless Princeton by some crazy, random happenstance has its own traditions of angst, reclusiveness, and black leather fetishism.

Tossing aside all remnants of my connection to reality and presuming that Tony Stark did indeed tread the Infinite Corridor so many years ago, I have to wonder what exactly he did while he was here. He graduated at the age of 17, which unfortunately removes as options much of the Boston-Cambridge nightlife, but I’d wager that Tony made his fair share of tours at all the on-campus parties. What if he went Greek? Where would Tony Stark pledge? Maybe he joined a fraternity where he could perfect his welding and wiring skills, or perhaps he pledged one where he could hone his playboy repertoire.

It’s even possible that he stayed in an undergraduate dormitory instead. If so, where did he stay? Who knows, maybe one of us has the same room that Tony Stark once brought of-age college girls home to, although I seriously doubt MIT would give a room as hovel-sized as mine to their resident savant-like wunderkind. I suspect Gollum may have lived in it until his realtor found a comparatively spacious cave to ease his claustrophobia. Besides, Tony strikes me as being an east-side kind of guy, to be perfectly honest. As for academics, it is already well-documented that Tony Stark majored in electrical engineering in his time at MIT, which has been designated Course VI since 1884, so I suppose that gives the EECS crowd something to be proud of. I suppose he probably picked up blacksmithing over IAP at some point, in between aggressive (Bostonian) urban driving and snarky humor.

In a red-and-gold-painted nutshell, the knowledge that Iron Man attended MIT begs some interesting questions about the specifics of his time here. While it is true that Iron Man is obviously fictional (all that money, and not one DeLorean in the garage? Not even just for show?), the fact that out of all the colleges in all the cities in all the world, Stan Lee chose ours to exemplify and characterize the pinnacle of engineering genius is flattering in the extreme. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go re-watch Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and marvel at how far we’ve come in comic book films since then.