Smith’s address to graduates places ‘heart’ alongside mind and hand

Institute awards average of 1.24 degrees per graduate

Over 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students received their diplomas at this year’s Commencement ceremony on June 5. In all, the Institute awarded over 3,400 degrees.

Among the degrees awarded were 1,099 bachelor’s degrees, 1,719 master’s degrees, 15 engineer degrees, and 606 doctoral degrees, according to Registrar Mary Callahan. Included in these counts are degrees received in September and February. At the ceremony, a total of 1,054 undergraduates and 1,719 graduate students were awarded diplomas.

Commencement Speaker

Megan Smith ’86, chief technology officer of the United States, delivered the Commencement address to the graduating class. In her speech, Smith emphasized the importance of mind, hand, and heart.

“One of the most important things in our school history is something that’s not in the motto,” Smith said. “It’s heart. What I mean by heart—it’s not just love and kindness—it’s wonder and discovery.”

Smith listed four key elements of heart to the assembled crowd.

Beginning with the importance of teamwork, Smith talked about her experience as a member of the MIT team which designed, built, and raced a solar car 2,000 miles across the Australian desert.

Smith then emphasized the value of kindness both as “a practical point” and as a way to nurture new ideas.

“Kindness is as important as knowledge,” Smith said.

Moving on to the importance of openness and inclusivity, Smith reminded the graduates that “not all talent has access.”

“For those of you who are underrepresented in technology, know that you’ve always been here.”

Smith cited several women, including computer scientist Grace Hopper and NASA physicist Katherine Johnson, whose scientific contributions are often overlooked.

Finally, Smith discussed the importance of service, telling graduates to “show up where we’re more rare—where the greatest problems live,” referring to her own work in Washington.

Charge to the Graduates

Senior Class President Joanne Zhou ’15 presented President L. Rafael Reif with the Senior Class Gift. A record 87.44% of the class contributed to the gift.

Reif delivered the traditional charge to the graduates. He pointed to various examples of MIT students “hacking the world,” from Smith’s pioneering Google Earth to the campaign “Tell Me About Your Day” launched by Izzy Llyod ’18 and Katie Ward ’16.

In 2011, the freshman convocation for the class of 2015 had been canceled due to Hurricane Irene. Reif’s canceled convocation speech had contained a quote from an MIT alumnus, which he shared instead at the class’s commencement: “MIT left me with the confidence to attempt innovation and the desire to learn.”

Prayer Returns

After being expunged from the 2014 Commencement ceremony, religious prayer returned to this year’s proceedings. Rabbi Michelle Fisher delivered a blessing from the Jewish tradition.

1 Comment
Freedom about 7 years ago

Fellow slaves, "heart" is codeword for what your master wants. Remember that.