Past speakers | Commencement archive

A tradition of Commencement speakers

The president of MIT spoke at the first Commencement Exercises held on the new campus in 1917. A 40-year tradition of guest speakers began in 1923, but in 1962, the Ad Hoc Committee to Examine the Commencement and Baccalaureate Exercises recommended that the guest speaker portion be eliminated as a means of shortening the Exercises. From 1964 to 1981, the president of MIT was again the featured speaker. The Class of 1981 president and Executive Council proposed the reinstitution of the guest speaker, so from 1982 to the present, a guest speaker has participated in Commencement at MIT.

To learn more about the history of MIT’s Commencement speakers, please see the Slice of MIT blog entry from June 5, 2014: A History of MIT Commencement Speakers.

2017 Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple
2016 Matt Damon, Actor, Filmmaker, and Co-Founder of
2015 Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States
2014    Ellen Kullman, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, DuPont
2013 Drew Houston, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dropbox
2012 Salman Khan, Founder and Executive Director, Khan Academy
2011 Ursula M. Burns, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Xerox Corporation
2010 Raymond S. Stata, Chairman and Co-Founder of Analog Devices, Inc.
2009 Deval Patrick, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
2008 Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, 2006
2007 Charles Vest, President-elect, National Academy of Engineering and  President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2006 Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve
2005 Irwin Jacobs, Co-Founder, Chair of the Board of Directors, and Chief Executive Officer of QUALCOMM
2004 Elias Zerhouni, Director of the National Institutes of Health
2003 George Mitchell, Former United States Senator from Maine
2002 James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank Group
2001 Daniel Goldin, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
2000 Carleton Fiorina, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hewlett-Packard Company
1999 Raymond and Thomas Magliozzi, Hosts of the National Public Radio Series, "Car Talk"
1998 William Clinton, President of the United States
David Ho, Physician and AIDS Researcher
1997 Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
1996 Albert Gore, Vice President of the United States
1995 Hanna Gray, President Emerita of the University of Chicago
1994 Karim Aga Khan IV, Spiritual Leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims
1993 Carlos Salinas de Gortari, President of the United Mexican States
1992 Leslie Aspin, Congressman from Wisconsin and Chair of the House of Armed Services Committee
1991 Walter Massey, Director of the National Science Foundation
1990 Virgilio Barco, President of the Republic of Colombia
1989 Paul Tsongas, Chair of the Board of Regents of Higher Education of Massachuetts and Former Senator from Massachusetts
1988 A. Bartlett Giamatti, President of the National League of Professional Baseball Cubs and President Emeritus of Yale University
1987 Kenneth Olsen, Founder and President of the Digital Equipment Corporation
1986 William Hewlett, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Hewlett-Packard Company
1985 Lee Iacocca, Chair of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of the Chrysler Corporation
1984 Shirley Chisholm, Former Congresswoman from New York
1983 Helmut Schmidt, Former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
1982 Katherine Graham, Chair of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of the Washington Post Company


Tim Cook at MIT Commencement

Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple, was the guest speaker at the 2017 Commencement Exercises on June 9, 2017.

Actor, filmmaker, co-founder of, and native Cantabrigian Matt Damon was the guest speaker at the 2016 Commencement Exercises on June 3, 2016.