A man of many hats

Jubilee Doctor Matti A. Ranta has many stories to tell. His conferment ceremony has remained in his memories as a particularly magnificent event.

Doctor of Technology Matti. A. Ranta will participate as a jubilee doctor in the conferment ceremony of the Aalto University schools of technology on 7 October. A person may receive the title of jubilee doctor if at least 50 years has passed since they became Doctor of Technology.

Mr Ranta received his doctorate in February 1965 and participated in the doctoral conferment ceremony for the first time 50 years ago, in 1966.

‘An honorary doctorate was conferred on Urho Kekkonen in the same ceremony,’ Mr Ranta remembers.

Through the decades, Mr Ranta has been involved in many ways in the activities of Helsinki University of Technology. He began as a professor of mechanics in 1970 and later on continued in such roles as vice president (1976–79), director of the general department (1970s and 1980s) and director of the department of mathematics and systems analysis (1980s and 1990s). In addition, he has participated in the work of numerous scientific organisations and committees.

‘I'm no amazing scientist, but I’ve been involved in many things.’

Mr Ranta began his studies in 1954 in aeroplane construction within the department of mechanical engineering. He lived in the Otaniemi student village and travelled every day to Hietalahti Market, where the Helsinki University of Technology was located at that time.

Sprinting over the bridge, exercising in the cellar

Of the journey between Otaniemi and Hietalahti Market, Mr Ranta remembers particularly well running over the old Lauttasaari bridge. After the bridge had been declared to be in poor condition, it was necessary to limit the number of passengers in the buses driving over the bridge. This was much of a problem for the athletic Matti Ranta:

‘After the lectures finished, there was always a lot of people in the buses heading for Otaniemi. The Police would stop the buses on the Salmisaari side of the bridge and make the excess passengers get out. I was always at the front of the bus, and when the police stopped the bus I jumped out and ran over the bridge to the Lauttasaari side. There I waited for the bus and then climbed back on board.’

For Mr Ranta, sport has been both an important part of life and also a focus for research – his work has included research on sport mechanics and modelling of sporting performances.

In the 1970s in the cellar of the main building of the Helsinki University of Technology, Mr Ranta set up ‘Matti’s power laboratory’, in which the weightlifting soon got started. It didn’t take long until the power laboratory became a gym for the whole staff.

‘When in 1970 I carried the weights into the cellar, it was no problem to carry a hundred kilos in one go. But when I retired in 1996 and carried them back up again, I couldn’t manage any more than 30 or 40 kilos at a time,’ Mr Ranta jokes.

‘It’s worth taking part in the conferment ceremony’

Matti Ranta has much experience of conferment ceremonies, as he acted as the master of ceremonies for the conferment ceremonies held between 1978 and1993. In 1994, Mr Ranta himself served as Conferrer of Degrees.

‘I fully support participation in the conferment ceremony. It leaves an unforgettable memory.’

In Mr Ranta’s opinion, the grandest moment in the conferment ceremony is when the hats are placed on the doctors’ heads. To the coming promovendi he would also like to give a reminder of the correct code of etiquette:

‘When the Conferrer of Degrees places the doctor’s hat on the head of the promovendus, the receiver of the hat should not start adjusting the hat’s position when still there on the stage. If the hat is not positioned well, walk first back to one’s seat and then adjust it there unnoticed.’

Mr Ranta considers the title of jubilee doctor to be a great honour. Many times though the finding of a suitable candidate for the title has not been a simple task, Mr Ranta explains.

‘Often the person involved has received their doctorate around the age of thirty. This means that they are 80 years old, or a little over, when the required 50 years from their conferment ceremony has passed. Often they are in such a bad condition by this stage that they have not been able to attend the conferment ceremony.’

In the case of Matti A. Ranta, there is no such problem. The 84-year-old Mr Ranta has been retired for twenty years, but he still has his own work desk at Otaniemi.

‘I try to keep producing publications, if not every year then at least every other year.’


Aalto University schools of technology will celebrate their next Ceremonial conferment of Doctorates and Honorary Doctorates on October 7, 2016. A ceremonial conferment is a traditional, academic celebration, in which doctorates and honorary doctorates are conferred. The idea behind the ceremonial conferment is that new doctors are accepted as full members of their scientific community and introduced to that community. The Ceremonial Conferment will take place in the Aalto Hall, Otakaari 1.

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