By Dana Yamashita

On May 22, 2021, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute awarded a total of 2,198 degrees — 115 doctoral degrees, 493 master’s degrees, and 1,590 bachelor’s degrees — to 2,174 students, some of whom earned multiple degrees. The in-person ceremony was held at the East Campus Athletic Village.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, chief medical adviser to the President of the United States and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, addressed the students remotely via live stream and encouraged graduates to “build the America and be the Americans of which your generation, your children, and all of us will be proud.”

Also addressing the students remotely via pre-recorded message, Sir Paul M. Nurse, a Nobel Laureate and the director and chief executive of the Francis Crick Institute, told the graduates to hold onto their curiosity, enthusiasm, and sense of humor. “Curiosity is a feature of youth but often diminishes as you get older,” he said. “Resist this. Remain curious.”

The Honorable Ashton B. Carter, the former United States Secretary of Defense and current director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Dr. John L. Anderson, the current president of the National Academy of Engineering spoke from the stage at the ceremony. Carter encouraged the class to use their STEM and broad human knowledge while tackling the many challenges they will face, and Anderson advised believing that tomorrow you can accomplish more than you did today will ensure growth.

Graduate student speaker Stephen Jane, who earned a doctorate in biology, noted that each of his fellow graduate students has a great gift, the full appreciation and realization of which requires humility and wisdom. And Lisa Sulmasy, a mechanical engineering major and the Class of 2021 president, recognized the many unprecedented situations her fellow students encountered, and through which they persevered.

You can watch the 215th Commencement Ceremony online.