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Fifty years

A 1963 MIT graduation invitationI received my undergraduate degree, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, on Friday, June 7, 1963, precisely fifty years ago tomorrow (this entry is being posted on Thursday, June 6, 2013). The image to the left shows an invitation/ticket to the event, which I've somehow kept all these years.

As a result, I'm now in the midst of my fiftieth reunion. Because it's an MIT tradition for the fiftieth reunion class to march in the commencement procession, tomorrow morning I'll file in to MIT's Killian Court with my classmates.

One object of many of my blog entries is to recall how relatively primitive technology was when my class entered MIT in 1959, and how much less important technology was to our society than it is now.

Back then, MIT was primarily what its name implies, a technical institute. Now it's a true university. MIT's influence has grown in proportion to the importance of technology. I benefited greatly from that in my career.

Society, and MIT, have changed in other ways. 21 women entered with our class of about 900, while the MIT class that arrived in the Fall of 2012 is 45 percent women. Seven female classmates are attending this reunion, a greater percentage than the percentage of returning men. Overall, an astonishing 196 classmates are attending at least one event of this reunion, bringing with them 208 guests, making this one of the largest reunions ever at MIT.

I've been heavily involved in the reunion planning, because I'm president of the Class of 1963. When I first became president, it was explained to me that my primary job would be to "make sure the next reunion happens." This has been fairly easy, because all I had to do every five years was to "round up the usual suspects", as Claude Rains said in the movie Casablanca. That is, our class has always had volunteers ready, and even eager, to do the necessary work. This reunion was no exception.

We began with an optional "Retreat" portion of the reunion at the Sea Crest resort on Cape Cod, which opened on Tuesday afternoon with a traditional New England clambake. Wednesday morning was mostly free for getting reacquainted with old friends, and later in the day we toured the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ("WHOI"). We returned to the Boston area this morning.

The traditional reunion weekend starts this evening with Tech Night at the Pops, a program presented especially for MIT by the Boston Pops Orchestra, at Boston's Symphony Hall. The rest of the weekend is packed with events. Just hitting the highlights: after we march in the Friday morning commencement procession, a class photo will be taken, and I'll preside over a brief meeting at a class lunch (this blog entry contains a preview of some of the things I'll say). Three of our classmates will speak at an educational program arranged for the afternoon, followed by an informal buffet dinner in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences building.

Saturday is called "Technology Day", with morning talks by professors doing research on the human brain. The fiftieth reunion class is then received by the president of MIT, in his home on Memorial Drive, called "Gray House". Finally, we'll have a gala dinner in the Cambridge Marriott hotel.

The weekend ends with a goodbye Sunday brunch.

Here's what I looked like exactly fifty years ago tomorrow, Friday June 7, 1963:

Larry in a cap and gown

And here's what I'll look like on Friday, June 7, 2013, when our class marches into Killian Court at the start of the commencement exercises, in the traditional red jackets worn only by the fiftieth reunion class:

Larry in his red MIT jacket

The detachable pocket crest and the special MIT buttons are shown in greater detail below:

The pocket crest   An MIT button

I'll actually first wear the red jacket this evening for Tech Night at the Pops, the event that kicks off the on-campus portion of the reunion festivities. I'll then wear it again in the commencement procession. The full outfit (red jacket, tie, crest, buttons, and gray slacks) isn't required to attend the reunion, but as president of the class, I thought I ought to go whole-hog.

To close out this entry: since I worked at Kronos, Incorporated, a company that makes products that keep track of employee "time and attendance", and since I worked there on the Year 2000 problem, I know a lot about calendars. This made me wonder why it is that tomorrow's MIT graduation ceremony is on exactly the same date as it was fifty years ago. It's easy to see why it's on the same day of the week - graduations are always held on a Friday. But why is it also on the same date?

It's actually not that hard to explain the math. Every common year is an even 52 weeks plus one "extra" day, so fifty years gives us 50 "extra" days (extra in the sense of not being part of one of the 52 whole weeks). Those fifty years also had 13 leap days. There were 13, not 12, because 2012 was a leap year.

So 50 extra days plus 13 leap days gives 63, and 63 is evenly divisible by seven. Thus there were an integral number of weeks between our two commencements: 2,609 weeks, to be exact.

Time, alas, marches on.

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#0183   *MIT

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© 2013 Lawrence J. Krakauer   Click here to send me e-mail.
Originally posted June 6, 2013

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