Congratulations! (Also, why 187 ≠ 205)

by Michael Mullaney on May 28, 2011

Congratulations to the Class of 2011! Rensselaer conferred about 1,700 degrees this morning, during the university’s 205th Commencement exercises.

But wait, one of our technically inclined readers may ask. How can it be the 205th commencement when we all know RPI was founded in 1824. After all, 2011 – 1824 = 187. And, of course, 187 ≠ 205.

It’s a shrewd question. The answers, it turns out, are quite interesting.

Indeed, several factors contribute to today’s ceremony being the 205th of its kind. These nuggets include:

  • The first Rensselaer commencement was in 1826
  • The Institute did not hold a graduation ceremony in 1852 – its degree program changed from one year to three years in 1850, and therefore there was no class of 1852
  • Similarly, there was no graduation ceremony in 1919 – the Class of 1919 graduated in December 1918 as the university’s program was accelerated during WWI
  • Additionally, around the time of World War II, Rensselaer accelerated its curriculum and often held three or four Commencements in one year
  • Lastly, for a time in the 1980s, the Institute held December graduations that were counted among the total Commencement exercises

At the end of the day, after all of these pluses and minuses, we net 205.

For more Rensselaer Commencement trivia, check out a pair of neat stories here and here.

And, once again, congrats to the Class of 2011!