MIT's 139th commencement to be held June 3

On June 3, MIT will hold its 139th commencement. The speaker will be actor Matt Damon. The stage and the chairs are set up on the soft, green grass of Killian Court. The weather predictions show scattered showers and patchy fog.

Even though this is the 139th commencement, it marks 149 years in which degrees have been conferred. The first commencement exercises were held in 1868. Commencement was not held during 1918 and 1919 because of World War I.

The first MIT commencement speaker, who spoke in the year 1880, was Rev. George E. Ellis, a Unitarian clergyman and historian.

The commencement exercises of 1882 were marked by tragedy. William Barton Rogers, MIT’s founder, collapsed onstage while giving a speech. He was later pronounced dead. A quote from the June 21, 1882 issue of The Tech describes how “an unusual stillness, like that of death, pervaded the building” as commencement concluded.

In 1970, instead of a speaker, the graduates requested a two-minute silence in order to consider what can be done “to help resolve the conflicts which divide mankind in this country and around the world.”

More recent past commencement speakers include President Bill Clinton, Salman Khan ’98 (founder of Khan Academy), Ben Bernanke PhD ’79, Ray Magliozzi ’72 and Tom Magliozzi ’58 (hosts of NPR’s “Car Talk”), Kofi Annan SM ’72, and Vice President Al Gore.

Congratulations to this year’s graduates and best of luck in the future!