Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Investiture: Class of 2014

Thayer’s graduating class was honored at Investiture, held June 7 at the Hopkins Center. Presiding over the presentation of hoods, caps, and awards to 173 recipients of B.E. and graduate degrees, Dean Joseph J. Helble noted that at Commencement the next day, 103 engineering sciences majors—the largest class in Thayer history—would also receive their A.B. degrees.

The annual Robert Fletcher Award, named for Thayer’s first dean and recognizing distinguished achievement and service in the highest tradition of the school, was presented to Stanford Professor David Kelley, founder and chairman of the design firm IDEO and founder of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.

Kelley focused his speech on empathy. Calling engineering “a team sport,” he said, “To build great stuff today, we really have to collaborate with people, especially people we want to use the things that we come up with.”

David Kelley
Investiture Speaker David Kelley. Photograph by Mark Washburn.

A Stanford student project was among his examples. “A bunch of Stanford students went to India and found that a million-plus babies were dying because they couldn’t maintain their birth weight, and so we got into designing incubators. The problem was the incubators were in the hospital, and that’s not where the babies were. The babies were out in the villages. And so the students ended up inventing something that looks more like a sleeping bag with a paraffin liner that you can heat up. But the students would go out in the field, and the bags just weren’t working. They couldn’t understand why they weren’t working. And so they had to get into the homes and really try to understand the people, the mothers, who were using them. And what they found is that the mothers in their culture had learned that Western medicine was so powerful that even though the instructions said to warm the incubator up to 98.6, they were warming it up to 70 because of the power of Western medicine. So the students had to change the thermometer from saying in degrees to ‘not OK’ to ‘OK,’ so you heated it up to the point that you get to OK, and this would be 98.6. It solved the problem, but they never would have gotten that if they hadn’t built empathy for the people they were trying to help.”

Kelley advised: “Wear your empathy as a badge of honor. It will allow you to do your best work, as a caring engineer known today and forever for developing meaningful solutions to today’s most important challenges, as someone who has the confidence and know-how to look someone in the eye and say: ‘I understand what you need, and I think I can help.’ ”

Helble told graduates, “Our Board of Overseers Chair, Terry McGuire Th’82, often speaks of ‘lives touched’ as a measure of worth of an engineering program.” Citing various ways the class touched lives—from building bioenergy systems in Tanzania to developing new drugs to combat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection—Helble said, “To you our students, who have left your mark on us, your faculty and staff, I say thank you. And to your family and friends, gathered here today, I again say thank you for lending us this extraordinary group of talented individuals for this too-brief period of time.”


Class of 2014 Engineering Graduates

Thayer School of Engineering class of 2014
Class of 2014. Photograph by Mark Washburn.

See videos from Investiture 2014:

For more photos, visit our Investiture album on Flickr.

Categories: The Great Hall, Investiture

Tags: award, faculty, history, innovation, leadership, M.E.M., projects, students

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