WPI 'disruption' urged.

Author:Sullivan, Mark

Byline: Mark Sullivan

WORCESTER -- By the time Worcester Polytechnic Institute's 146th Commencement exercises got underway late Saturday morning, it already had been an event-filled day for Marlisa Cardoso Overton.

At a campus ceremony earlier in the morning, the 21-year-old Reserve Officers' Training Corps graduate from Brimfield had received her commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Administering the oath was her husband, Greg, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force who graduated from WPI's ROTC program last year.

Her parents, Marla and Carlos Cardoso of Brimfield, pinned the lieutenant's bars on her uniform.

And her cousin, Lina Macedo, of Fall River, a veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard, gave the newly-minted officer her first salute.

Lt. Overton's feelings on the day? "Pride and excitement,'' said the biomedical engineering graduate, who is slated for active duty in the Army's Medical Service Corps.

"I'm finally really a part of the Army, a goal I've been working toward the past four years,'' she said, adding: "The hard work I've put in has been for my parents -- to make them proud.

"It's like the big finale!'' she exclaimed.

Lt. Overton was among the nearly 1,200 graduates who received degrees at WPI, founded in 1865 as one of the nation's first engineering and technology universities.

Early morning showers gave way to a brilliant sun that shone on the ceremonies held under tents on the quadrangle.

Commencement speaker Bernard Amadei, founder of Engineers Without Borders-USA and co-founder of the Engineers Without Borders international network, urged graduates to be "disruptors of business as usual.''

"I'm not asking you to break all the windows,'' he said. Rather, he called for "the kind of disruptions that will help everyone on our planet to have fulfilling lives, meet their basic needs, and live with dignity and peace.''

Mr. Amadei, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado, recalled starting Engineers Without Borders with 10 of his students in 2001 following a trip to Belize where they had worked on a water pumping system for a small village. Now, he said, Engineers Without Borders has 14,000 members working in 45 different countries.

This year's WPI graduates are "well-positioned to become the agents of change that our planet needs,'' he said. "Let it be said that you have an obligation to share your gift with others.''

He said this responsibility extends to the 7.2 billion people living on the planet, of whom as many as 5 billion struggle simply to stay alive by the end of the day. In the world today, close to 1 billion people do not have access to clean water, 2.4 billion lack access to sanitation, and 1.6 billion lack access to electricity, he said.

"Poverty is a crime against humanity,'' he said. "Poverty is not normal.

"Our world needs you to commit to disrupt poverty, disrupt injustice, disrupt violence, and disrupt the systems that support and encourage ill forms of behavior on our planet. As human beings, we can do better that what we are doing right now.''

This "call to action,'' Mr. Amadei said, "is truly an obligation, and is no longer an option. The world needs you.''

Receiving honorary degrees with Mr. Amadei were Robert Foisie, a 1956 alumnus who recently gave $40 million to support scholarships at WPI, the largest gift in the school's history; Sheila Harrity, principal of Worcester Technical High School, which has received national acclaim as an urban education success story; and Stephen Rubin, a 1974 alumnus and former chairman of the WPI trustees.

The Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prize was...

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