May 16, 2011

Student Commencement Address by Brad Powers

Good morning!

To the administration, faculty, staff, family and guests gathered here today, thank you for joining us in celebration of the Wentworth Institute of Technology, graduating class of 2011! 

We did it!

To our parents and those who played such a significant part in helping us reach this milestone, we give special thanks - for your encouragement, dedication – and perhaps more than a small amount of money! We could not have done it without you.

And to our faculty, we give you our heartfelt appreciation!

To the class of 2011, I know that we do not have to be reminded, that as we say goodbye to our home of the past four or five years, we are no longer students - we are professionals.

Over this time we have spent hundreds of hours in lectures, meticulously completed demanding problem sets and projects, and successfully taken countless examinations. And if we pause and reflect, the sum of our collective effort is staggering!

But why did we spend so many hours in the library, in the labs or in studio? For me, the answer is simple: as Wentworth students nothing pleases us more than to create something that wasn’t there before.

When we were young, this urge led us to disassemble appliances, draw pictures on the walls, and perhaps got us into trouble when we built a potato firing cannon too powerful for our own good!  It was this urge that lead us to the Wentworth Institute of Technology because we found that it’s technology that moves and invigorates us. It awakens our spirit; it’s the power that drives us – to create. However, in our efforts to make better, we must all be reminded that with this great power comes great responsibility.

Like Prometheus - who stole fire from the gods and presented it to mortals, we will create the future and, for better or worse, hand it over to the rest of humanity. And therefore we must be careful when we take that next step and consider the resulting ramifications to the rest of society.

Today we are immersed in innovative technologies that were unheard of only a few years ago. Smartphones and tablet PCs were rare. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube didn’t yet exist.

We now have unprecedented access to videos of skateboarding dogs and thousands of out-of-focus party pictures. Blogs, tweets and OMGs have become an integral part of our modern lexicon. We quickly find information on just about any topic and communicate across the globe instantly. I am sure I would not be wrong in my guess that someone is tweeting about this event as I speak!

The last one hundred years have seen technology change the face of the world more drastically than in any other period of time in history. Scientists, architects, and engineers have left mankind’s indelible print on the earth.

Wentworth’s students and faculty have always been at the forefront of that innovation. In the past one-hundred and seven years this institution has made great strides. The Electromechanical Engineering program, Wentworth’s first true engineering degree was started in 1993. In 2009 the institute began offering master’s level programs with the introduction of the Masters in Architecture, followed by the Masters in Construction Management in 2010.

Student and faculty research and projects have always been a subject of innovation and pride both on and off our campus. Each year a new set of creative projects find their way into newspapers, professional journals – and into society. For example, Professor Robert Villianucci received recognition for his research into using the theory of wavelets to detect the onset of heart attacks.

Wentworth students are equally active in their co-op jobs and internships throughout the world. We’ve displayed our technological skills and desire to create through our designs and projects. Many of these projects have gone on to compete in competitions all over the country.

We are well aware of the challenges that face the technologists of tomorrow. And it is essential that sustainability become one of the cornerstones of design. Already environmentally friendly products and buildings are becoming more common. We are among the first generation of technologists acutely conscious of the environmental and social impact of our creations. A design’s environmental impact must be as carefully considered as its functionality and economic feasibility in order to ensure a tomorrow for future Wentworth graduates.

I would like to close by noting Samuel Florman who in his book The Existential Pleasures of Engineering asks what it is like to “be an engineer at the moment that the profession has achieved unprecedented success, and simultaneously is being accused of having brought our civilization to the brink of ruin?”

I don’t believe many Wentworth students think in these terms.  We are incurable optimists, skilled and educated from our years here to see solutions in any problem. We are a generation of creators, changers, doers born into a world of problems created by decisions made before we were born. As we leave here today we are determined to use our pragmatic resolve, our Wentworth education, our desire to make better - to again alter the course of technology in our world.

Class of 2011, It is now time to go to work.

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