Class of 2010        Keynote Irwin Shapiro '47       Four Horsemen        Alumni News         Home


When Irwin Shapiro was told as a Brooklyn Tech student to “reach for the stars,” he took that advice literally and became a leading astrophysicist. Sixty-three years after his graduation, he returned to present the keynote address to Tech’s Class of 2010 and to inspire them to fulfill their dreams.

Dr. Shapiro, earned advanced degrees in mathematics at Cornell and physics at Harvard, went on to teach at MIT and direct the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for more than 20 years. He continues to teach as the Timken University Professor at Harvard. His curiosity has taken him, he explained, from exploring “the nucleus of the atom to the core of the Earth to the most distant objects known in the universe.” His work has also involved estimating the size and age of the universe and testing Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Yet despite an Ivy League education that propelled him to prestigious teaching appointments and numerous awards, Dr. Shapiro told the Class of 2010, “Tech provided the most important education of my life.” The first telescope he ever used was the one he built (and won first prize) for Tech’s science fair. And as he proudly displayed a lamp he had built using the mechanical drawing and metal-working skills learned at Tech, he exclaimed, “I still treasure the product.”

Dr. Shapiro observed that a major change between 1947 and today was Tech’s diversity, and commented that “Tech and our country are stronger for it.” He noted with wonder the technological and scientific progress made in his lifetime and looked forward to new advances ranging from cancer cures to discoveries of extraterrestrial life.

He asked the 2010 graduates to “Contribute as you can to changes for the good.” And he concluded with the words, “And never, never forget Brooklyn Tech.”

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