Explaining Southern California's economy

Elon Musk to Caltech grads: 'You guys are the magicians of the 21st century'

Elon Musk

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder, gives his commencement speech to the Caltech graudatiing class during the 118th annual commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012. "You guys are the magicians of the 21st century. Don't let anything hold you back, imagination is the limit and go out there and create some magic," said Musk.

Caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

A graduate gives his undivided attention to Elon Musk's commencement speech during the Caltech graduation ceremony on June 15, 2012.

Elon Musk - Caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Jordan Robert Raney (right) shakes the hand of Elon Musk (left) after recieving his doctorate of philosophy degree during the Caltech graduation ceremony on June 15, 2012.

Caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Caltech Graduates wait to be seated during the 118th annual commencment ceremony on June 15, 2012 in Pasadena.

Caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

The Caltech Glee Club sing "Ode to Joy," during the 118th annual commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012.

caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Family members try to capture a photos and video of graduates as they walk up on stage to receive their degree during the Caltech 118th annual commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012.

caltech Graduation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

A barefoot graduate walks to his seat after recieving his degree during the Cal tech Commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012.


Elon Musk has made a name for himself as an innovative entrepreneur in banking (PayPal), cars (Tesla Motors), rocketry (SpaceX), and alternative energy (SolarCity). He's a very driven, very smart man. He's a billionaire, the 20th richest person in Los Angeles. But at today's California Institute of Technology graduation is Pasadena, he was surrounded by more brainpower than even he's used to, and it was humbling.

Musk's commencement address capped an impressive few months for the CEO. The model for the Tony Stark character played by Robert Downey, Jr. in the "Iron Man" and "Avengers" movies just completed the first successful commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. In a week, Tesla will begin deliveries of its Model S sedan. He's on a roll. 

But so is Caltech. So the 526 graduates of the 2012 class at all academic levels were ready to receive Musk's inspiration and wisdom. He didn't disappoint. "You guys are the magicians of the 21st century," he said. "Don't let anything hold you back. Go out there and make some magic."

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California colleges top professor pay in survey

Professor Salaries

Chronicle of Higher Education

Two California colleges pay their professors top 20 salaries.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, California has two colleges in the top 20 of average faculty compensation for 2011-12.

Full professors at Caltech make $172,800 per year, while full profs at UCLA make $162,600.

This puts full professors at both admittedly quote prestigious institutions at or very near the highest U.S. income quintile, as defined by the Tax Policy Center.

For the record, both California schools are in the lower half of the top 20. Harvard is number one, with full professors who earn $198,400.

I was curious about which schools full professors finished at the bottom of the survey. That would be Villa Maria College of Buffalo, at $42,200. Strangely, associate professors there make $49,300. Things get weird at the bottom. However, these professors are still solidly in the third U.S. income quintile. They're also right about at the median for U.S. individual wages, roughly $44,000.

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