MIT offers unofficial “Pirate Certificates” for archery, fencing, pistol or rifle shooting, and sailing. In 2011, the university’s physical education department began issuing official certificates to those who completed all four disciplines. The certificate is an incentive for students to complete their physical education requirement and shows the school’s sense of humor. Actor Matt Damon received an honorary certificate in 2016.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of America’s top institutions of higher learning, with 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 96 Nobel laureates, 48 Rhodes Scholars, and 50 MacArthur Fellows among its faculty and alumni. But all those science and engineering geniuses also like to have fun. For nearly 20 years, MIT students have pursued unofficial “Pirate Certificates” by taking lessons in archery, fencing, pistol or rifle shooting, and sailing. In the past, these achievements were just for bragging rights. But in 2011, the university’s physical education department began issuing official pirate certificates, printed on faux parchment, to those who completed classes in all four “pirate” disciplines.
MIT says the certificate is an incentive for college students to complete their general physical education and wellness requirement. It also shows that the school has a sense of humor.
“In the geek culture, there’s a big war between pirates and ninjas,” said an MIT student. “I’m on the side of the pirates. I think pirates do much more. They sword fight, they sail, they collect treasure. All ninjas do is hide.”
In 2016, actor Matt Damon was awarded an honorary MIT Pirate certificate after speaking at the start of school. Damon’s character in The Martian called himself a “space pirate.”