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50 Year Club Luncheon & Class of 1962 Induction Ceremony

Remarks by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

East Campus Athletic Village
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, New York

Friday, October 5, 2012


Good afternoon to each of you. Welcome back to Rensselaer!

Today, I am pleased to be with you as the Great Class of 1962 joins the ranks of the 50 Year Club. Congratulations. Like many classes that have come before you, I am sure you are sitting here wondering where the time has gone – can it really have been 50 years? While it can be hard to imagine, the answer is “yes” and I hope these past 50 years have treated you well.

Before we celebrate today’s milestone, join me, if you will, for a brief trip down memory lane to recall what type of world you were entering as you completed your Rensselaer degrees.

When you walked across the stage at commencement 50 years ago, do you recall who the President of this fine university was? It was Richard Folsum, and it was his fourth year of a 13-year stint!

Our nation and the world stood on the brink of yet another potential world war with the Cuban Missile Crisis brewing throughout the year, and coming to a head over a frantic few weeks during the fall of 1962.

We are all grateful that our leaders joined together to avert the crisis, as many of you were just beginning your illustrious careers with a steady stream of income finally starting to flow. With a median annual income of $2,800 reported in 1962, you were well on your way to amassing your fortunes.

1962 also introduced many pop culture icons that have stood the test of time. The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys all released their first records. Wal-Mart and K-Mart opened their first stores. And, Johnny Carson became a staple in living rooms as he took over “The Tonight Show.”

The lasting impact of these pop culture “firsts” can still be felt throughout society today. And while there is no doubt that times have certainly changed in the last 50 years, I hope that the positive impact of your experience here at Rensselaer endures. 

Whether you come back to visit us every year, every ten years, or maybe just every quarter of a century, you are visiting an Institute that has experienced an extraordinary transformation. The campus we are on today is vastly different from the one you knew so well half a century ago; and the campus of tomorrow will, undoubtedly, follow suit. 

All of the changes would not be possible, however, without one, steady constant - the ever present connection between Rensselaer and our phenomenal alumni and alumnae. You are a select group – our Rensselaer family. 

The opportunity for us to join together over Reunion & Homecoming weekend each year is invaluable because it allows you to remember back to your Rensselaer days, renew your Rensselaer connections, and reflect, not only on how far the Institute has come, but how far we would like to go.

I hope that you will join me in reflection this afternoon, following this celebration, as we take stock of where we are as an Institute and look ahead to the future in a discussion focused on refreshing The Rensselaer Plan. The Refreshed Plan will serve as our beacon as we prepare for the celebration of our 200th birthday in 2024.

But, before we look too far ahead, let us get back to our celebration today. I must say thank you - to an outstanding Reunion committee for their work in gathering so many of you here. Chaired by Stu Benton, I know that this is not an easy task, and we do appreciate your efforts.

I understand that the Class of 1962 leads the way by giving the highest gift to the Annual Fund this year. Congratulations on this effort, which is critical to the Institute as we continue to expand our global reach.

This is great work, indeed. Our students are truly the benefactors of your philanthropy, and we thank you for all that you are doing to support them. Your generosity is very, very much appreciated.

I also would like to recognize the Honorable Arthur Gajarsa, Chairman of our Board of Trustees, and Michael Herman, Board of Trustees Member. Art and Michael, would you please join me at the podium? 

At this time, it is my honor and privilege to formally induct you into the ranks of the 50 Year Club!

Congratulations on your induction into the 50 Year Club today, Art and Michael. We thank you for your great service to Rensselaer.

Please continue to enjoy your 50 year celebration and any other events you are partaking in throughout the weekend. Even though a half century has passed since you earned your diploma, you still are very much a part of the Rensselaer family. 

When you return home, please continue to wave that Rensselaer flag and keep the alumni network going. Encourage others to give.  

Rensselaer is moving forward, sharpening our vision for the next century – a vision that, in order to be realized, needs your support as alumni and alumnae, our best ambassadors and supporters.

Thank you, and enjoy the weekend.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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