2024 Investiture Information

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Just One Question: Investiture Address

Dec 01, 2021   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Q: If you were asked to give the Investiture address at Thayer, what would be your core message?

Didn’t Sylvanus Thayer say something about engineering education that is memorable? In the absence of that, I tend to be guided by a variety of “Think Thayer Virtual Event” announcements. For example: “The importance of engineers and scientists informing the legislative process, and the impact it has on tackling the world’s most pressing problems” or “Dartmouth is redefining how technology education can be a fundamental component of the liberal arts experience” or “Building solutions for a better world through human-centered engineering and design.”
—Sam Florman ’46 Th’73

Listen.
—Charles Queenan ’52 Tu’53 Th’53

Now that you have completed your endeavors and learning experiences at Dartmouth and Thayer it is appropriate for you to ask, “Why did I come here in the first place?” It certainly was to learn new skills and gain new knowledge, but perhaps the single most important reason was to learn about yourself. By now you should know what turns you on. The key to your life and future success will lie in pursuing your passion. To be passionate about what you do with your life will be the best motivator you will ever find and ultimately lead to real satisfaction. If you can find a career that allows you to pursue your passion, you can almost be assured of your success and happiness.
—Ron Read ’57 Th’58

Thayer and Dartmouth together provide an excellent mixed education of liberal arts and technical-engineering education. The engineer of today is called upon to do far more than just be technically excellent. He or she must be able to relate to the public at large in order to obtain encouragement and understanding for what they would like to do.
—Jerry Allyn ’59 Th’60

Today is indeed a day for celebration. It is a time for commemorating your achievement and also for looking ahead. You have probably heard about William McRaven’s advice in his 2014 University of Texas commencement address to “make your bed every day” and you may be familiar with Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s identification of the need for a goal. You will do well to practice both. Today, however, I’d like to stress the importance of gratitude. None of us got to where we are on our own. It not only takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to create an engineering graduate. Family, friends, teachers, and even institutions have had a part in preparing you for this day. Your debt of gratitude to all of these contributors is something that you can repay going forward. You can do this one step at a time: Catch a subordinate or peer, spouse, child, or supervisor something good and compliment them. Both of you will feel better for the action. At the end of each day, think of something you are thankful for; you will sleep better.
—Harris McKee ’61 Th’63

Take the systems thinking you learned at Thayer with you when you leave. Apply it vigorously to both your professional and personal lives. We live in a complex and interconnected world. Actions and decisions focused on a particular problem or goal, like ripples in a pond, often affect seemingly unrelated aspects of our lives and the lives of others. Rarely can one component of a system be changed without triggering consequences downstream in the system. It is very worthwhile to invest effort and resources to anticipate those consequences. Usually, when those consequences are negative, they cannot be reversed. Consider the actions of an executive who decides that the structure of the organization he or she manages must be changed to keep up with industry changes and improve performance. Without testing reorganization options with stakeholders who will be impacted, employees and customers might be lost because important, but not highly visible, relationships might be disrupted. On the brighter side, a carefully pre-tested reorganization plan might ignite people and teams to attempt new ways of improving performance. Similarly, if the plan to clean up a contaminated waste site focused not only on the contaminants to be removed, but also on the possibility to restore the ecosystem that once thrived on the site, the result might be additional community green space, not just a reduced eyesore. I would say systems thinking is the most important learning I received at Thayer.
—Neil Drobny ’62 Th’64

My pitch would be don’t worry so much about what engineering field to choose. Pick one that’s interesting to you and pay close attention to the process of engineering design in that field. I retired from the Navy 25 years ago, and in retirement, I have had the good fortune to meet and talk with hundreds of up-and-coming engineers from industry, academia, and the national labs. One question I ask of all of them is “Have you always worked in your field?” Surprising to me at first (but no longer) is that more than 50 percent of the rising stars in industry no longer work in the field of their graduate studies. A common theme in their responses is “Engineering at my level in our company is solving hard problems. My graduate degree in (whatever) has not been as important as learning the process I was taught for solving those problems.
—Bill Hayden ’66

My topic would be why infrastructure cybersecurity needs to be embraced by the private sector. I worked briefly as a contractor with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Lab on consequence-driven, cyber-informed engineering (CCE). CCE is a methodology focused on securing the nation’s critical infrastructure systems. It’s a very impressive approach, but unsurprisingly federally focused. My previous energy experience was with the private sector. These folks can’t turn on cyber command’s offensive tools as easily as can the U.S. government. It’s a serious challenge, as the recent Colonial Pipeline incident demonstrated. CCE begins with the assumption that critical infrastructure targeted by a skilled and determined adversary can and will be sabotaged. What’s the solution? Develop a private-sector corporation mirroring the Idaho National Lab CyberCore Integration Center to conduct CCE engagement with private-sector industries.
—Jeff Zimmerman ’67

Although I am an architect rather than an engineer, I would urge the new engineers to remember and live the words of 17th-century architectural critic Henry Wooten. He said that to be truly good, even extraordinary architecture, it must include “firmness, commodity, and delight”: firmness to be structurally sound and of good long-lasting materials; a commodity to enclose and accommodate whatever activities it is designed for; a delight to please the senses with light, color, and harmony. Engineering should, in its own way, meet these goals. Let your Dartmouth education of engineering infused in the liberal arts prepare you to bring firmness, commodity, and delight to everything you do.
—David Peck ’68

Your education process does not end at graduating from Thayer. You must pursue your engineering education throughout your career.
—Harvey Welker ’68

The Dartmouth experience cultivates a special foundation that fosters a unique approach to applied sciences that is often missing from other technical experiences. We need to take advantage of this unusual perspective, especially as it applies to many worldwide problems that cry for multidisciplinary attention.
—Peter Areson ’72 Th’73

I would pass along the advice I received from Professor Russ Stearns when I asked if there was a future in civil engineering: “There is always a future full of opportunities for the best.”
—Eric Kankainen ’72 Th’73

An engineering education in a liberal arts environment is a distinct advantage! You have unique capabilities beyond nuts-and-bolts engineering skills to solve global problems with a contextual perspective on doing the right thing for the good of mankind.
—David von Loesecke ’74 Th’76 Tu’83

“Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential,” said Muhammad Ali. That’s Thayer School to me. When I first heard this quote, I thought of the time when I told my thesis advisor, John Strohbehn, that I had hit a brick wall in my project. He said, “It just seems that you need to do something clever.” There were so many clever things going on at Thayer at the time that it didn’t seem like an impossibility. I finally worked through the problem. Through the years this advice has been a thing to focus on through many of my engineering challenges.
—Hal Greeley Th’77

Your achievement is significant. Today, breathe it in, be present with it, and consider what it means to you.
—Paul Krupka ’79 Th’80

Speed, simplicity, and self-confidence. Fail quickly and recover. Keep messages simple to assure alignment. Have the self-confidence to innovate.
—Rich Kehl ’81

Every human endeavor should be focused on climate change. Engineering is a key component to creating a sustainable future and is defined by the challenges of climate change. We are late in addressing this most critical issue.
—Jay Mead ’82

Life is about relationships, and if the last year taught us anything, it is that life also is short, fragile, and unpredictable. Cherish, nurture, and invest in your relationships with your family, friends, classmates, coworkers, and, for that matter, the gentleman sweeping the floor and the gentlewoman serving your coffee. Be truly present in the moment. Pocket your phone. Look up. Make eye contact. Smile. Listen. Empathize. Forty years on from my arrival on campus I can say with some perspective that academic and career success can certainly be rewarding, but there is no substitute for having close and enduring friendships and raising a family. These take focused time and attention, just as your schoolwork did and your career work will. Do not assume that the friend sitting next to you, with whom you have shared so much in the last few years, will be there in 10, 20, or 40 years—time that will go by in the blink of an eye. One day you will wish to be back at this day to relive the last 40 years with new eyes and attention to your relationships. So do the work to maintain and build the relationships in your life, because adversity and success cannot be tackled or enjoyed without friends and family. Grief shared is divided, and joy shared is multiplied. Good luck and God bless you!
—Doug Kingsley ’84 Th’85

Technology has become more complex and more pervasive, invisibly weaving its way into every corner of our lives and work. More than ever, engineers need the moral compass to design in responsible ways and the communication skills to explain technology to consumers, users, and policymakers. Dartmouth may be uniquely poised to deliver these engineers of the future.
—Robert Mazzarese ’87 Th’97 Th’98

Find your purpose and use it as your North Star!
—John Replogle ’88

Use your education to adapt to the changes that must come and to resist the changes that should not.
—Scott Sabol ’88 Th’88

Oh my goodness! Take it all in and take advantage of as much as you can!
—Maureen Hahn ’92 Th’93 Th’94

Engineering education trains you to think, to use facts, data, and information to draw conclusions and solve problems. It forces you to hone in on what is important and discard what is not to get to the heart of the matter. Use that in your career and your everyday life to navigate these tumultuous and divisive times.
—Brett Buatti ’92 Th’94

When engineering makes headlines, it is often because engineers fail. With the recent collapse of the Champlain Tower apartment complex in Florida, an overtop failure of the Edenville Dam in Michigan, and the failure of three tailings dams in the last 10 years, engineers must re-balance their professional obligations to the community and their financial obligations to engineering firms and clients. It does not save anyone money to take unnecessary risks on engineering features that are necessary to protect human or environmental health. In each of the cases listed above doing necessary maintenance, monitoring, or repairs were delayed, deferred, or canceled so that a client, stakeholder, or owner could do what was cheap. It’s time for engineers to get brave again. We need to be telling the painful truth to our clients. It is obvious that our hard honesty is far easier to tolerate than our failures.
—Larry Breckenridge ’95

Technology doesn’t exist for itself. It exists for those who are creative enough to leverage it to make their lives better, as I heard Charles Hutchinson say many times.
—Keith Lenden ’95 Th’95

For the first time in human history we can make things totally awesome. Engineers working with everyone can enable all of us (10 billion people) to flourish in partnership with Earth. The only thing holding us back is the articulation and pursuit of our collective dreams.
—Drew Endy Th’98

As you embark upon a journey solving real-life problems and achieving great successes in your respective careers, don’t forget to invest time in cultivating your inner happiness and health. If the pandemic has made us realize something, it is to take a pause once in a while from the external world and draw closer to things and people that truly make us happy. Keep that perspective always and don’t let the externalities eclipse the real you.
—Mayank Agrawal Th’08

I actually gave the first Thayer student Investiture address in 2014. I would probably give the same speech with the same points. First, you are infinitely invaluable and, second, holding this truth allows you to fulfill the mission of Thayer and be “the most capable and faithful [with] the most responsible positions and the most difficult service.” Third, you give a Dartmouth degree value, so make the most of it.
—Drew Wong ’12 Th’14

Have irrational self-belief and persistence in this ever-changing world—your voice, unique experiences, and world perspectives are superpowers.
—Atri Raychowdhury Th’17

Reach out to the alumni family for advice and to pass on the help you received to other students or alums.
—Wanfang Wu Th’19

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