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Rita Colwell to speak at MIT/WHOI Joint Program Commencement June 5 at WHOI

June 3, 2010

Rita R. Colwell, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University and former Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), will give the commencement address June 5 at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to the 2010 graduates of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Sciences and Engineering.

The academic convocation begins at 10:30 a.m. in the tent on McKee Ball Field behind Clark Laboratory on the Quissett Campus. WHOI hosts the event every five years. A commencement is held every year at MIT, which will hold its own ceremony on Friday, June 4.

Eight 2010 Joint Program graduates will earn master’s degrees and 23 will earn doctoral degrees; four of the master’s and 15 of the doctoral recipients will be present at the WHOI ceremonies. Also invited to the ceremonies are Joint Program students who have graduated since the last time the commencement was held at WHOI, in 2005.

“It’s very rewarding to see such an outstanding class,” said James A. Yoder, Vice President for Academic Programs and Dean at WHOI. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of [the current graduates] since I came to WHOI [in 2005] and they’re personable and bright. Most of them already have at least one publication and will go on to positions at many different universities and institutions,” he said.

Yoder served from 2001-2004 as NSF’s Director of the Division of Ocean Science during Colwell’s tenure there. “She made a lot of contributions to our knowledge of microbiology in the oceans,” he said. In her current positions—which also include Senior Advisor and Chairman Emeritus of Canon U.S. Life Sciences and President and CEO of Cosmos ID Inc.–she remains “extremely busy,” he said. “We were lucky to get her.”

Including Saturday’s graduation, the Joint Program will have awarded 865 Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees since it began in 1968.  That total comprises:

Joint Program doctoral degrees (including PhD and ScD):  611

Joint Program Master of Science Degrees:  189

Joint Program Engineer’s Degrees:  57

Joint Program Master of Engineering Degrees:  4

WHOI PhD (not Joint Program with MIT):  4

The MIT/WHOI Joint Program is highly competitive, vying for graduate students with the likes of Caltech, Stanford and the Ivy League schools, Yoder said. This year, 52 students were selected out of about 315 applicants, he said. Twenty nine of those 52 accepted the offer to enroll in the Joint Program.

Typically, program students work under the guidance of a primary advisor at WHOI or MIT and “have made major contributions” to work at both institutions, Yoder said.

The convocation and commencement program schedule includes:

Academic procession

A performance of America the Beautiful by Edward K Scheer of AOP&E and a 1982 Joint Program alumnus

Opening of the exercises by Newton P.S. Merrill, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Invocation by The Rev. Deborah M. Warner, Rector, Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole

Introductions by Susan K. Avery, President and Director of WHOI

Recognition of Joint Program Graduates and Presentation of Degree Recipients by James A. Yoder, Vice President for Academic Programs and Dean

Conferring of Degrees by Susan K. Avery, Newton P.S. Merrill, John F. O’Brien, chairman of the Corporation and Edward A. Boyle, Joint Program Director, MIT

Greetings from the Joint Program Alumni Association–Paul V.R. Snelgrove, President of the Joint Program Alumni Association

Commencement Address—Rita R. Colwell

Presentation of Awards

Director’s Charge to the Graduates—Susan K. Avery

Closing Exercises— Newton P.S. Merrill

Benediction– The Rev. Deborah M. Warner

Academic Recession, performed by Edward K. Scheer

The awards scheduled to be presented at the WHOI include:

The Arnold B. Arons Award for Excellence in Teaching, Advising, and Mentoring

The George “Gera” Pavlovich Panteleyev Award to the student who best exemplifies the commitment to improving the graduate education experience and graduate student life at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The Ruth and Paul Fye Award for Excellence in Oceanographic Research.

The Earl Ewing Hays Award to the student who has made an imaginative and unique contribution to the art of ocean engineering and ocean instrumentation as documented in a report, presented paper, publication, patent or copyright filing.

The Rear Admiral Richard F. Pittenger, USN (Ret) Fellowship, conferred annually to a Navy student.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans’ role in the changing global environment.