Drew Houston speaks at 147th Commencement

Dropbox founder — youngest Commencement speaker to date — delivers keynote address

6030 commencement
Ásbjörg Kristinsdóttir, PhD candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, receives her doctoral hood from Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80 and department head Andrew Whittle ScD ’87 in Rockwell Cage Thursday.
Arthur Petron—The Tech

Over 2,600 students will graduate from MIT today, receiving over 3,300 degrees. Killian Court is expected to be filled with over 13,000 guests at the Institute’s 147th Commencement.

MIT will award 1,042 bachelor’s degrees, 1,749 master’s, 11 engineer degrees, and 587 doctoral degrees, according to Registrar Mary Callahan. (September and February degrees are included in this count as well.) 977 undergraduates and 1,658 graduate students will walk in today’s Commencement exercises, while PhD students were hooded at yesterday’s doctoral hooding ceremony in Rockwell Cage.

The Graduating Student Survey, conducted annually by MIT’s office of Global Education and Career Development (GECD), found that 37 percent of the undergraduate Class of 2013 will be continuing on to graduate school, while 56 percent will be entering the workforce. 2 percent have enrolled in another education program, another 2 percent are undecided, and the final one percent is doing another activity, according to Deborah L. Liverman, the director of career services. Of those planning to work, 95 percent will be in the US — the most popular states for employment are Massachusetts (29 percent), California (26 percent), and New York (14 percent). 52 percent of the undergraduate class responded to the survey as of June 4 at 9 a.m.

Keynote speaker

Today’s keynote speaker will be Drew W. Houston ’05 (pronounced “house-ton,” unlike the city in Texas), the founder of the popular online file storage service Dropbox. Houston, 29, will be the youngest MIT commencement speaker in at least 30 years — beating out last year’s speaker, Sal Khan ’98, who was 35 at the time. Houston is the age of some of the graduates today!

Houston graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering (6-3) in 2005. He says that MIT’s Athena system, which allows students to access their files from any computer on campus, served as an inspiration for Dropbox. He worked on the company with Arash Ferdowsi, an MIT student who left the Institute to work with him in 2007.

The two were successful — Dropbox appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine last year and today boasts over 100 million users.

In an interview with The Tech in October, Houston hinted that today’s speech might include some tips for those students looking to found their own startups.

“Building Dropbox has been the most amazing experience of my life, and I’m really excited to share the experience and what I’ve learned in this whole journey,” he said. “Starting a company is a very mysterious process.”

Institute President L. Rafael Reif will deliver the traditional charge to the graduates.


Undergraduate seniors spent their last few days at the Institute participating in a variety of Senior Week events hosted by the 2013 Senior Week Committee. The week kicked off with a champagne toast hosted by Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80 last Friday and included events like skydiving, kayaking, a club night, a dodgeball tournament, a Red Sox game, bowling, and laser tag.

Every year, the undergraduate senior class organizes a fundraiser to raise money for a particular cause. This year’s class raised $30,000 to fund Mad Money grants for MIT students. Mad Money grants are meant to help fund student groups that need cash for things “beyond the scope of [their] annual budget for travel or special projects,” according to the Senior Gift website.

The Class of 2013 set a record for class participation — 83 percent of the class donated to the cause, and alumnus George Dotson ’62 pledged to match up to $25,000 of the senior class gift.

Upped security

This year’s Commencement will feature some of the heaviest security since 2002 — the Commencement immediately following the 9/11 attacks.

All graduates and attendees will be required to pass through metal detectors at the entrance to Killian Court. No backpacks, large bags, or other large wrapped objects will be permitted during the ceremony. Bottles and other beverage containers are also prohibited. While diaper bags and purses are allowed, the MIT commencement website warns that all items taken to the court are subject to search. Electronics will require demonstration in order to be brought inside. Guests should bring government issued photo ID with them to the ceremony.

Commencement Schedule

The entrance to Killian Court opens at 7:30 a.m. today, though many families arrive earlier to be ready to grab prime seats. However, it’s not necessary to arrive that early — the actual ceremony begins at 10 a.m. However, the gates do briefly close at 9:45 a.m. for the academic procession.

Those who do not have a view of the stage can sit next to the Jumbotron screen by the back right section of the audience. Tickets are required for all attendees over the age of three, and are required for re-entry into the court.

Though today’s forecast calls for rain, families should note that umbrellas are not permitted in Killian Court. Guests who do not wish to sit outside can watch the ceremony from a variety of indoor locations that will have a live broadcast (see sidebar). It is only in case of severe weather — such as hurricanes or thunder storms — that the outdoor ceremony would be canceled.

The length of Commencement varies every year, but should end sometime between 1:15 and 1:30 p.m. The court will remain set up for a couple hours afterwards in order for graduates and their families to take photos. Immediately following the ceremony, departments hold individual receptions with food and refreshments. A list of receptions can be found in the sidebar.

More information about the commencement exercises can be found at

1 Comment
Anonymous over 10 years ago

What a terrible speaker he was.