MIT President Rafael Reif

MIT President Rafael Reif to speak at ASU undergraduate commencement


Mary Beth Faller

Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will deliver the address at Arizona State University's undergraduate commencement May 7 in Phoenix.

During the ceremony, ASU will confer the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, on Reif for his achievements in education, science, social entrepreneurship and sustainable futures.

“Rafael Reif is a tremendous example of the tenacity of the human spirit,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “He is in many ways like a lot of our graduates: first in his family to go to college and doggedly determined to make a difference in this world. I can’t think of a better person to inspire the class of 2018 as they set off on their lives and careers.”

Reif, an electrical engineer, became the 17th president of MIT in 2012 after serving as provost for seven years. He started at MIT in 1980 as an assistant professor. A first-generation college goer, Reif, whose parents fled Eastern Europe in the late 1930s, grew up in Venezuela speaking Spanish and Yiddish. In 1975, he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University despite his initially limited knowledge of English.

As provost at MIT, Reif promoted a major faculty-led effort to address challenges around race and diversity, and he helped launch the Institute for Medical Engineering and Sciences. As president, he has been committed to instilling in MIT graduates a concern about how their technological innovations may impact all of society. One of his signature programs is The Engine, a new accelerator to help ventures translate tough technologies into innovations that may take several years, such as a system to send information instantaneously from space and a digital olfactory sensor that transforms odor into data.

As a researcher, Reif focused on three-dimensional integrated circuit technologies and environmentally benign microelectronic fabrication. He is inventor or co-inventor on 13 patents. In 1993, Reif was named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his pioneering work in semiconductor thin films.

The May 7 undergraduate commencement will be at 7:30 p.m. at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. Graduation activities, including more than 30 specialty convocations, will begin with the Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at ASU Gammage and conclude with the Hispanic Convocation at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at Wells Fargo Arena. 

Top photo courtesy of MIT