Immelt: `Let's Get to Work'; GE head delivers spirited speech.


Byline: Matt Kane


WORCESTER -After receiving an honorary doctor of science degree at yesterday's Worcester Polytechnic Institute commencement, Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., told graduates he was required to memorize the school's cheer before obtaining the degree.

"E-I, Radical, Pi. Fight 'em, Fight 'em WPI," Mr. Immelt said after reciting the previous lines of the fight song, while hundreds of graduates, friends and family members applauded.

During his commencement address, titled "Let's Get to Work," the ninth chairman of one of the world's largest industrial companies told graduates to choose a path of optimism versus cynicism and to be positive sources of innovation. He challenged graduates to get to work on important issues, such as health care, breast cancer, high energy costs and environmental degradation.

He shared several tips on how the graduates should go about making change.

"First, recognize that no task is beneath you," he said.

To illustrate, he shared a story that took place when he was leader of the client service business of General Electric Co. When a catastrophic technical failure required the company to replace 3.3 million refrigerator compressors, he visited customers' homes to learn how to fix the compressors, he said.

"There's no better way to put theory into practice than for a math major to sit on someone's kitchen floor while the ice cream melts," he said, as audience members chuckled.

As the sun shone on black gowns and a slight breeze blew cap tassels, the university awarded 738 bachelor of science degrees, 333 master's degrees, and 18 doctor of philosophy degrees on the campus Quadrangle during the 140th WPI commencement.

The university also announced that General Electric Co. donated $100,000 toward the Cape Town Project Center, a program that offers WPI students opportunities to work on sustainable development issues in Cape Town, South Africa.

In his speech, graduate Michael J. Richard noted the 100th anniversary of Robert H. Goddard's graduation from WPI. Dr. Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926.

"Dr. Robert H. Goddard once wrote: `It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow,'" Mr. Richard said.

"We graduate today with the same potential and WPI education necessary to change the world as this early rocket pioneer."

The university awarded Woodie Flowers, Pappalardo Professor Emeritus at MIT, an honorary doctor of engineering degree for his commitment to bringing science and technology to students of all ages. Richard W. Lyman, former president of Stanford University, received a doctor of science degree. Elizabeth J. "Jing" Lyman, his wife,

received a doctor of science degree for her leadership of organizations dedicated to community service and equality.

The university presented Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prizes, each in the amount of $10,000, to David S. Adams, WPI professor of biology and biotechnology, and Alexander E. Emanuel...

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