Marburger, who also holds the post of director of the nation’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, began his speech by asking the crowd, “Is there anyone who doesn’t think Engineers are different from other people?”
Despite humorous references throughout his speech to comic strip engineer Dilbert, slide rules and pocket protectors, all of which received hoots of laughter from the crowd, Marburger insisted that engineers may be viewed as eccentric, but they have far more to give to society than that image alone.
“What I like about engineers is that they are oriented toward getting things done that most people care about…and they have the characteristic of getting things done in the face of obstacles,” shared Marburger.
He added,” “Engineering is a word that has a broad and noble significance…[the profession] has a valuable lesson to teach others.”
Dr. John Marburger and Dean Vijay K. Dhir
The approximately 640 undergraduate students and nearly 500 graduate students participating in Saturday’s ceremony received some final advice for the future from the nation’s most influential scientific policy maker: “Count on meeting obstacles and think of them as an essential part of the challenge… Remember that nature, broadly construed, includes people. You cannot ignore the human element… And know that your own education has prepared you for a life far more rich and satisfying than the stereotype of the engineering job… The skills you now have are effective in every human endeavor, from building bridges and relationships, to building nations.”
Marburger has served local, state and federal governments in a variety of capacities. Before his appointment in the Executive Office of the President, he served as director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, and as the third president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He came to Long Island from the University of Southern California, where he served as a professor of physics and electrical engineering and as physics department chairman and dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Throughout his career, Marburger has contributed significantly to the field of nonlinear optics, spurred by the invention of the laser in 1960. He developed theory for various laser phenomena and was a co-founder of USC’s Center for Laser Studies.
Click here to read the complete text of Marburger’s speech.