Media Contacts

For press inquiries and other news-related questions please click here. Read More

Olin in the news

For recent media coverage please click here. Read More

Return To News

Olin College Holds Eleventh Commencement Exercises

Commencement Speaker Friedman says adherence to Golden Rule key to tackling challenges

Olin College of Engineering granted 78 bachelor of science degrees at its eleventh Commencement exercises Sunday, May 15, in Needham. A procession of graduating seniors, faculty, staff, alumni and distinguished guests snaked around campus and marched into the Commencement tent set up on the Great Lawn precisely at 1 pm. There, they heard a succession of speakers urge the newly minted Olin engineers to take on the big challenges facing the world by opening doors and building bridges among people.

Featured speaker Thomas L. Friedman, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist of The New York Times, noted that recent technological advances—such as the iPhone, Facebook and big data— features of what he called the “post-2007 world” after the year many of these innovations were launched—hold out the opportunity bring the world together as never before, even as they enable unprecedented destructiveness. The key to a positive outcome, Friedman said, is working together.

“So please go forth into the world and build bridges across those highways, railroad tracks, rivers and valleys—lord knows we need them,” said Friedman. “But save a little time and energy each day to build or repair a bridge to another human being.”

According to Friedman, the guiding principle for tackling global challenges like climate change and the refugee crisis is the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you—a position he acknowledged may seem simplistic.

“I know it sounds naïve, but in this world, naiveté is the new realism,” said Friedman. “What is really naïve, naïve in the extreme, is to continue thinking that we are going to have a stable world with so much amplified power distributed to so many people by not working together and by not building more bridges between us—and by not scaling the Golden Rule.”

In his welcome to the class, Olin President Richard K. Miller stressed the importance of lifelong learning, and provided tips on how to continue intellectual and professional growth throughout a career. Miller said continual growth is like a “do-learn” cycle of experience and reflection.

“This is a continuous cycle, involving reflection and deliberate sense-making or framing of the knowledge you already have, continually reaching out for new knowledge, and deliberately integrating this into your personal narrative,” said Miller.

Student speaker Victoria Preston noted that while developments such as social conflict, terrorism and climate change have created new challenges, recent discoveries in science, along with empowering technologies such as mobile communication, offer great promise for improving life on the planet, especially for people with an engineering education.

“Being people in tech will afford us the opportunity to leverage our expertise and training in order to amplify the voices of others and lead the causes we most care about,” said Preston.

Assistant Professor Sara Hendren, representing the faculty and staff, noted that as engineers in today’s world, it is important to approach life with a questioning attitude that asks why the world is constructed as it is, whom it benefits, and how to make it more just, sustainable and open to all.

“To pry open and build these kinds of entrances you will use your engineering, yes, but you will need so much more than that—you will need wisdom. And you’ll have to look for it and recognize it far outside of technology,” said Hendren.

Members of Olin’s Class of 2016 class are bound for technology companies such as Apple, Google, General Motors, Blue Origin, and Microsoft, as well as graduate school at universities like Cambridge, Columbia and Northwestern. Two members of the class are Fulbright winners. Three are National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship winners and four received honorable mentions. Three seniors have been named Grand Challenge Scholars by the National Academy of Engineering.