Engineers: Building a better world

At UCLA engineering graduation, Raytheon CEO calls for healing and a higher purpose

Engineers: Building a better world

Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Kennedy delivers the commencement address to engineering graduates at the University of California - Los Angeles.

Great engineers have a singular talent: the ability to work through nearly any challenge.

It is a skill, Raytheon CEO Thomas A Kennedy told graduating engineers at the University of California-Los Angeles, that will see them through challenging times and give them the power to address the great challenges of our day, from climate change to disease.  

"That is your gift, your engineering trait, your core competency," Kennedy said in his June 11 commencement address to the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. "These are noble jobs and careers which will contribute to making the world a better and safer place."

The commencement came just days after a former student killed himself and a professor on campus. Kennedy said his prayers were with the professor and all those affected by the tragedy.

"This is a sad time for UCLA Engineering. Yet there can be comfort and healing gained from routine and rituals," Kennedy said. "That is why I am so very pleased to be with you today. To grieve with you, yes, but to celebrate with you as well."

Kennedy earned a doctorate in engineering at UCLA in 1984, shortly after joining Raytheon. He became chairman and CEO of the aerospace and defense company in 2014. Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Raytheon has 61,000 employees and had $23 billion in sales in 2015. About 500 UCLA alumni work at the company.

Kennedy recalled how in 1984, a time before Internet access, UCLA students spent hours in libraries doing research. Papers were printed on screeching dot matrix printers.

He urged students to always embrace new technologies and never lose their desire to create new things. Kennedy himself holds several patents for radar and electronic warfare technologies, and in 2003 he received the Aviation Week Laureate Award for his work on advanced radars.

"How can you never become obsolete? Be curious about new things, adapt and always be learning," he said.

Humanity is heading into countless new frontiers, he said: Mars and a new era of spaceflight, undersea exploration, new cyber technologies and hypersonic aircraft.

These projects require a diversity of ideas, which means increasing the diversity of the workforce and special focus on collaboration, he said.

"Diversity and innovation go hand in hand," he said.

Above all, Kennedy said, graduates should apply themselves to work that truly benefits humanity.

"I ask that you use your problem-solving skills -- your solutions-creation skills -- to make the world a better and safer place," Kennedy said. "Best of luck for a most rewarding future."

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Published On: 06/14/2016
Last Updated: 12/15/2017