May 21, 2008 - A gallery of commencement images by HMC photographer Kevin Mapp can be viewed here: The college’s first commencement was held on June 11, 1959, in the courtyard of the college’s first dormitory, Mildred Mudd Hall (East). The speaker was Lee A. DuBridge, then president of Caltech, and John Murray, president of the class of 1961, delivered the charge to the graduates. Mathematics majors Peter Leob ‘59 and Stuart Black ‘59 received diplomas from board chair Henry T. Mudd and people watched as it was broadcast on local television station KTTV.
Underneath a large tent on a warm, sunny day in Mudd Quadrangle, parents, family members and friends celebrated the achievements of the members of the class of 2008.
Graduating senior Marielle Wardell (photo, right), who was chosen by members of her class to deliver the student keynote address, said, “I wanted to deliver the best commencement speech ever . . . but got distracted when 12 of my friends updated their FaceBook pages.”
Reflecting on her time at HMC, Wardell said, “It’s daunting to know the scope of what we don’t know.” She urged her fellow grads to learn from inventor Thomas Edison, who said of his development of the light bulb that he didn’t fail 10,000 times, but succeeded in finding 10,000 ways it would not work.
“I’ve learned to keep learning and never fear failure,” Wardell said.
Science educator William Nye, a.k.a. “Bill Nye the Science Guy,®” (photo, below right) gave the invited commencement address. The unanimous choice of the senior class, Nye was introduced by HMC President Maria Klawe saying, “OK, seniors, you asked for him and we got him for you!”
Nye used his famously wry sense of humor to deliver an important message, often in direct terms: “This place has changed you, now we want you to go out and change the world.”
Nye called attention to the generational differences that technology has amplified: “The old people would rather talk than text, especially at the dinner table. In my day, engineering school was just as stressful. You didn’t have the Internet—you had to look things up in books. As a result, rumors were harder to start.”
Nye described attending the World’s Fair in 1965 and being disappointed when his family arrived too late to see the world population counter click over to three billion. “While you have been here [at Mudd] it’s gone to six billion. If everyone consumed like we do in the U.S., we would need two more planets.”
Nye alluded to the challenges of global climate change. “Do more with less, my friends—that’s how you change the world.” He described energy conservation as the low-hanging fruit of the solution and urged the audience to “go for the high-hanging fruit.” With his infectious Science Guy® enthusiasm, he urged the graduates to develop “big, hugely big, hugely gigantically big” ways to change the world.
He also appealed to the graduates to appreciate the “PB & J” (passion, beauty and joy) of science and nature. He then offered ”. . . my most significant piece of advice—vote! Voting is your power. The president of the United States affects every species on the planet.”
William A. Mingst, chair of the HMC board of trustees, delivered the board resolution that confirmed the recommendations of the faculty for those students who had earned degrees. The presentation of the candidates was then done by Robert Cave, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, while President Klawe presented the students with their diplomas.
Jonathan Mersel ‘75 (photo, right), president of the Alumni Board of Governors welcomed the graduates to the ranks of HMC alumni and to membership in the Alumni Association. He urged the graduates to stay in touch with each other and with the college. “Your future awaits you and we await hearing from you,” he said.
Associate Vice President of Facilities and Maintenance Theresa Potter (on left in photo, below right) was honored with the Henry T. Mudd Prize for service to the college. Unaware she was being given the honor until President Klawe read the citation, she was coaxed to the stage with the ruse of assisting with “an emergency.” She broke into tears when the citation was read, along with excerpts from her nomination, which was signed by every member of the Facilities and Maintenance staff.
Her nomination said, in part, “Theresa has led her team by example, and her vast amount of knowledge and experience has made her a great coach to those under her supervision. She is greatly respected for her ability to listen and be supportive of her staff’s needs, personal family issues and necessary time off. Her staff greatly appreciates the freedom of innovation and creativity that she gives them, as well as the support she is always there to provide.”
The Mudd Prize includes a $4,000 award, $2,000 of which is designated for use within the college at the discretion of the awardee.
Commencement marshals were Professor Jeffery D. Groves (bearer of the mace), Eric David Burkhart and Michael Scott Kimbrell (student marshals), professors Daniel C. Peterson and Gerald R. Van Hecke ‘61 (faculty marshals) and professors John I. Molinder and Richard G. Olson ‘62 (trustee marshals).
A gallery of commencement images by HMC photographer Kevin Mapp can be viewed here:
The college’s first commencement was held on June 11, 1959, in the courtyard of the college’s first dormitory, Mildred Mudd Hall (East). The speaker was Lee A. DuBridge, then president of Caltech, and John Murray, president of the class of 1961, delivered the charge to the graduates. Mathematics majors Peter Leob ‘59 and Stuart Black ‘59 received diplomas from board chair Henry T. Mudd and people watched as it was broadcast on local television station KTTV.