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WPI Class of 2024 Charged to Dream Boldly, Enjoy the Journey

May 23, 2024 Press Releases
WPI Class of 2024 Charged to Dream Boldly, Enjoy the Journey Group Image

In separate ceremonies, writer and producer Nancy M. Pimental ’87 and entrepreneur and flexible packaging CEO Greg Tucker ’92 provided inspiration to new WPI graduates

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) celebrated the achievements of the Class of 2024, including 1,169 undergraduates, 788 master’s degrees, and 69 doctoral degrees. Commencement ceremonies were held May 9 and 10 at the DCU Center, and on Wednesday, WPI hosted the Commissioning Ceremony for the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts’ Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

Undergraduate Commencement

President Grace J. Wang, PhD, and Board of Trustees Chair William Fitzgerald presided over the 155th Commencement exercises Friday afternoon. 

Wang told the graduates that in a changing world, where new technologies and industries are rapidly emerging, and where they could be doing jobs that have not yet been invented, they should dream boldly, persevere, be a team player, and enjoy the journey. 

 “WPI has prepared you for this future,” Wang said. “During your time here, you have been immersed in a transformative, leading-edge, and inclusive environment to ready you for jobs, careers, and, also, exciting opportunities to come.”

In her commencement address to undergraduates, Nancy M. Pimental, a 1987 WPI graduate who spent 11 years as a writer and executive producer on the hit Showtime series “Shameless,” told the graduates they are well-prepared for whatever career path they choose to follow. 

“With your degree from WPI, you’re ready for success,” Pimental said. “You can literally accomplish anything you set sights on. Isn’t that amazing? The possibilities are unlimited. You learn to think critically, solve problems logically, and work together collaboratively. These are the skills you need to overcome any obstacles that are thrown your way. There’s nothing you can’t do now that you’re a WPI grad.”

Pimental and Michael J. Dolan ’75, WPI Trustee Emeritus, who served for 16 years as an active member of the Board of Trustees, received honorary degrees as part of the ceremony. 

Student speaker Samuel Levitan, a biology and biotechnology major, weaved Commencement history into his speech, reminding the audience that Black educator, reformer, and intellectual Booker T. Washington gave WPI’s 50thCommencement address in 1915, speaking about America’s transformation since the end of slavery. Levitan also talked about the sense of belonging instilled in WPI students, who balance a STEM education with a formative personal experience.

“To learn about cutting-edge technologies and scientific discoveries at WPI takes an open mind,” Levitan said. “But no matter where you go and no matter what you do, an open heart is just as important. Remember that you belong wherever that may be, and that the people around you are counting on you to believe that they belong, too.” 

Graduate Commencement

During the graduate students’ ceremony Thursday evening, Wang said the WPI community will be watching with pride as “you pursue your passion, drive momentum, contribute knowledge and create solutions, persevere through every adventure; inspire others and be inspired.” 

Graduate ceremony speaker Greg Tucker ’92, entrepreneur, founder, vice-chairman, and chief executive officer of flexible packaging company ProAmpac, said the exceptional training and mentorship he received at WPI gave him a solid engineering foundation and nourished his entrepreneurial spirit. 

“Through WPI’s project-based approach, I learned to base decisions on data and facts, not opinion and rhetoric,” Tucker said. “I can see things as they are. This honesty has allowed me to grow, admit mistakes and be accountable, and strive to improve.”

Tucker and Chartsiri “Tony” Sophonpanich ’80, president of Bangkok Bank, received honorary degrees at the event. 

Representing the graduate students this year was robotics engineering master’s candidate Hitanshu Shah, who spoke about how his journey was enriched not only by academic pursuits but by the challenge of weaving a tapestry of diverse cultures, languages, and perspectives.

“This mosaic of experiences has fortified our resilience, broadened our understanding, and underscored the value of empathy, diversity, and collaboration in solving complex global challenges,” Shah said. 

ROTC Commissioning

WPI’s 2024 Commencement Week also included a Commissioning Ceremony for the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts’ Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). On Wednesday, 26 cadets in the Army, Air Force, and Space Force programs at Assumption University, Brown University, Clark University, the College of the Holy Cross, WPI, and Worcester State University were commissioned as officers, having completed both their academic requirements and their military science courses and training. The Commissioning Officer was Brig. Gen. Andrew J. Leone, Mobilization Assistant to the Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the Pentagon. 

Special Sendoff for Longtime WPI K-9

Bella, the WPI Police Department’s certified explosives-sniffing dog, is retiring after eight years—and thousands of hugs from students, staff, and faculty–on the job. Bella was the first such K-9 to be assigned full-time to a college campus in Massachusetts, and she worked both on the WPI campus and assisted Massachusetts State Police and other authorities at hundreds of events across the state, including the Boston Marathon and the Fourth of July celebration at Boston’s Esplanade. The friendly black Labrador retriever walked down the aisle during the undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremonies with her handler, WPI Police Officer Brian Lavallee, to receive her ‘diploma.’ Bella will enjoy civilian life at home with Officer Lavallee as he trains her successor, Jewel. 

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