School of Engineering - Infinite Mile Awards

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2005 SoE Awards Ceremony and Recipients


Rachel N. Cohen

Peter B. Houk

Melanie L. Miller

Darlene K. Ray

Kathleen M. Sullivan


Rita M. Demeo


Lisa A. Bella

Peggy Carney

Carolyn Collins

Esther Greaves Estwick

Jennifer K. Leith

Stephen W. Rudolph

Peter W. Stahle

May 4, 2005


I'm Tom Magnanti, Dean of Engineering, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to the School's fifth annual Infinite Mile Awards ceremony. It's wonderful to see all of you here.  

I would like to recognize and thank the Dean's Team, all of whom helped organize today's event: Catherine Avril, Lauren Clark, Mary Anne Gowen, Donna Harding, Lisa Magnano Bleheen, Marielle Risse, Ed Ruiz, Brian Tavares, and Sandy Tenorio. Thank you.

Before I go any further, I'd like to ask all of you who have received School of Engineering Infinite Mile Awards in previous years to stand up. Thank you. It's great to have you here with us.

Today we will recognize the contributions of 13 individuals, bringing to 78 the fellowship of School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award winners, with a total of 1,290 years of service. Your support and your dedication to excellence and to MIT are critical to this enterprise, and you are one reason why the School of Engineering has been and continues to be the premier school of engineering in the world.

I was honored to deliver the keynote address at the Institute's Excellence Awards ceremony in March. Those of you who attended might recall that I quoted former School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award winners who had kindly shared with us their thoughts on what receiving the award meant to them. I think their comments bear repeating here today.

Our former award winners noted that the Infinite Mile Awards program creates a sense of collegiality and community that was not present before. Many said that they were touched and humbled by the recognition, which they never sought or expected. The public recognition was a lifetime first for many of them. I still find that amazing when I reflect on how talented and dedicated they are.

One person wrote, "The other day, I was musing on the award on my wall and felt that having received it, I was obliged to live up to its spirit and all the lovely things that were written about me and were read to those in attendance. (It) keeps me on my toes, so to speak!"

Another wrote, "Ever since I received the award, I have been even more encouraged to try and live up to the standard. The comments that were made about me at the presentation daily echo in my head. The novelty still has not worn off!"

There is no question in my mind but that programs like this one make great employees even greater.

One person wrote that she keeps her Infinite Mile Award on her desk, and it always brings a smile to her face. "Thank you," she wrote, "for giving my morale an 'infinite' boost."

Our Infinite Mile Awards Ceremony has two intertwined themes: Excellence and Joy, for as Pearl S. Buck said, "The secret of joy in work is contained in one word: excellence." They are indeed a powerful combination.

As I look out across the audience I see many very distinguished individuals, but for the next hour or so, none more distinguished than the 13 people sitting in the first row in front of me. As you will see, this year, as in past years, our Infinite Mile Award winners embody joy in excellence, and we are indeed grateful to them for all they do. We are also extremely grateful to those of you who took the time to nominate your coworkers and colleagues. Without you, there would be no Infinite Mile Awards program. Finally, we would like to thank all of you for taking the time today to share in this happy occasion, this festival of excellence and joy. I hope you will find it as inspiring as we do.


My name is Donna Savicki and it was my great pleasure to convene the selection committee for this year's School of Engineering Infinite Mile Awards. The members of the selection committee have joined us up front. They are: Connie Beal from Chemical Engineering, Robin Elices from the ASO, Fletch Freeman from EECS, and Deb Hodges-Pabon from the Microsystems Technology Laboratories.

I would like to add my thanks to Tom's, to those of you who submitted nominations for this year's awards (and for all of the past years' awards as well). MIT is a very, very busy place, but your willingness to submit nominations for awards such as these is proof that it is also a collegial and caring place. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work at MIT with its extraordinary faculty and amazing students are, indeed, twice-blessed, particularly those of us fortunate enough to work in what I consider to be the very best part of MIT, the School of Engineering.

As those of you who have attended this ceremony before know, Sheila Kanode and I will read brief citations about each of our award winners. Each award winner will remain seated until we finish reading, then will come up to receive from Tom, a certificate, a check and a much coveted School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award paperweight. We ask that you hold your applause until we have finished reading each citation.

Reading your nominations and composing these citations is, for me, a very moving, really inspiring experience. I hope that these brief comments convey to you, not only how wonderful our award winners are, but the depth of affection and admiration the letter writers have for their nominees. I also hope they will inspire you to nominate colleagues and co-workers in the future.

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Lisa Bella, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science


Lisa Bella has worked in EECS headquarters since joining MIT almost 19 years ago. I will start by telling you that one of Lisa's primary responsibilities is to schedule all the classes for the largest department at MIT. Anyone who's ever had to schedule anything at all around here will appreciate what an enormous headache, I mean task, that is. In addition, Lisa handles EECS's catalog entries, oversees the TA process, coordinates EECS functions, handles advertising for new faculty positions, maintains database records of all department teaching activities and more. She is described as consummately efficient and effective, a gentle presence, and an imaginative and resourceful problem-solver. We are told that her door is always open and that there is a steady stream of people going in and out of her office, asking her advice or direction on department as well as non-department matters. Lisa is a resource person for a wide variety of responsibilities and topics from learning the idiosyncrasies of new computer programs and software updates to the extensive details of preparing faculty promotion cases and procedures for teaching assignments. Not only does she quickly master various tasks, but she can and does patiently explain to others how things are done. And all comers are received with a friendly smile, all challenges met with good humor. Lisa is a fount of knowledge about the department which she shares freely, be it a question about visas or stipends, what candy machines are full, who will be teaching 6.001 next semester, or what year a particular faculty member received tenure. Whether it's finding a classroom at the last minute for a professor who needs more blackboard space or designing an invitation for a holiday celebration, Lisa will go the extra mile to make sure all the parties involved are satisfied. I have personally had the pleasure of working with Lisa and happily second the many wonderful testimonials we received on her behalf.

For 10 years, Lisa supported EECS's Executive Officer, Fred Hennie. Working with Fred, Lisa interacted with students in the process of finding and appointing over one hundred TAs each term, negotiating with the faculty to arrange class schedules for some 80 subjects per term and much, much more. Lisa interacts superbly with faculty, staff and students all of whom are grateful for her efforts on their behalf. In the words of one letter writer, Lisa "is able to cope with the peculiar whims and needs of the faculty (most of whom have learned that the way to get things done is go directly to Lisa)."

Lisa is described as a "patient teacher." In the words of one faculty letter writer, she embodies what is so striking about our best staff members: dedication to and pride in their work, genuine affection for the Institute and its people and a clear understanding that MIT is about helping exceptional people get amazing things done - the sort of understanding that allows her to be a force for constant improvement and a model for excellence.

Lisa, on behalf of your co-workers, the Department and the School it is our great pleasure to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Peggy Carney, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science


Surely our next Infinite Mile Award winner, Peggy Carney, is the embodiment of grace under pressure. Peggy is the administrator in charge of graduate admissions and fellowships in EECS. Hers is a mammoth task. While overseeing the department's 150 fellowships, serving as secretary to the department's ComMITtee on Graduate Students, producing brochures describing the department's graduate programs, and serving as the department's United Fund representative; Peggy's primary responsibility is assuring that the 2,500 graduate applications the department receives each year are complete and that they get to the right place at the right time for the faculty to evaluate and choose new graduate students. Peggy manages this with two office staff and an occasional temp. In addition, this past year, Peggy embraced and managed the transition from an all-paper review process to a mostly electronic process architected by faculty members in computer science, and things went very smoothly. Peggy's experience and insight were invaluable to the transition and to the fine-tuning of forms and procedures. Peggy, maybe we could get you involved with the SAP-HR-Payroll Project...?

Now as it turns out, the department adMITs fewer than 200 of its 2,500 applicants each year and countless numbers of those who are not adMITted (or their parents or professors) call or email Peggy wanting to know why. Letter writer after letter writer testify to Peggy's kindness and tact as she responds in a clear and firm but always caring and respectful manner to those many inquiries. We are told that her patient and graceful manner projects a humane image of the department, even to those students who are not adMITted.

Having dealt with Peggy extensively myself over the years, I can attest to the fact that all who approach Peggy for information or help are similarly received. Peggy is incredibly knowledgeable and can always be counted upon to share that knowledge. No matter how busy she is, her manner is patient, respectful and remarkably serene.

One faculty member, a former student in the department, summed it up eloquently, and I quote "Peggy's soft-spoken advice, constant smile and gentle manners make everyone feel like they belong. Her energy, know-how and hard work make magic happen in the office, and everything runs smoothly. If you're in trouble, Peggy knows how to fix things and will do so, as if this was perfectly normal." After describing Peggy's responsibilities he goes on to say, "I can't possibly imagine how she manages to do all this, and at the same time appear constantly peaceful and in control every time one visits. I know that I can find her in her office anytime of the day. Peggy brings order into the crazy MIT life, and constitutes a unique jewel in the MIT department (of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)."

Peggy it is with enormous gratitude for your remarkable service to the department, the School and the Institute that we present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Rachel N. Cohen, Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems


From the AO, the HR administrator, and her primary faculty supervisor to a faculty visitor of many years, everyone she works with refers to Rachel Cohen’s comMITment to excellence, which is demonstrated by her exemplary administrative skills. Rachel’s outstanding computer skills, her terrific time-management skills, her extraordinary good judgment in a variety of situations, and her continuous willingness to take the iniative — all have a positive impact and a lasting impression.

Rachel divides her time between supporting faculty and playing a key role in LIDS headquarters. Her computer skills are sought after. Her ability and experience with the LaTeX software program wows the faculty, and her database expertise is invaluable to the LIDS headquarters staff. We learned she applied her LaTeX experience to typing, organizing, and proofing a several-hundred-page manuscript that enabled a very happy professor to complete his textbook and prepare it for publication. This faculty member receives part-time support from Rachel and characterizes her as an "exceptional person" who is reliable, conscientious, devoted to accomplishment, and does all with a positive attitude and a personality that make her a pleasure to work with. Rachel is always seeking a more efficient and simpler way to accomplish any task at hand. Throughout each endeavor, she has the unique ability to see the big picture without missing a detail.

As publications coordinator for LIDS, she redesigned and now manages the database for all print materials, including thesis and technical reports. She is proactive in collecting the necessary materials and ensuring that appropriate parties receive them. On her own initiative, she designed a handout to assist LIDS faculty and staff in the publication process. Her timely efforts have increased the visibility of LIDS publications, because the materials are uploaded as soon as they are made available. Rachel also redesigned a database system for RA appointments, which reduced the duplication of files, simplified the entire process, and provided a higher level of service to the faculty and visitors to the lab.

Rachel’s primary faculty supervisor writes that Rachel anticipates what needs to be done and expedites a myriad of projects and correspondence to meet any impending deadline. She has excellent computer skills, good judgment, and her ability to interact with sponsoring agencies enables her to monitor all of his contracts with ease. She assists in proposal preparation and can utilize Fast Lane processing to NSF. Rachel interacts with visitors, handles all of the arrangements and reimbursement processing with ease. He says, and I quote, "Most of all, I can be away from the office and she keeps me aware of those things which I would need to answer but manages all other matters as if I were there." Last but no least, this senior faculty member notes that all would do well to emulate her!

A long-time faculty visitor to the lab summarizes Rachel’s accomplishments nicely as he writes, "Rachel is a wonderful example of someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty in order to help make MIT the place that it is."

Rachel, on behalf of your colleagues in LIDS, the School, and the Institute, it is our pleasure to present you with this SoE IMA Award for Excellence.

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Carolyn Collins, Microsystems Technology Lab


Carolyn Collins is the administrative assistant to Professors Tayo Akinwande and Harry Lee in the Microsystems Technology Laboratory, a position with numerous requirements, all of which Carolyn meets with enormous energy, enthusiasm and efficiency. In MIT lingo, C2 has E3.

Besides the superb day-to-day support that Carolyn provides to the faculty in their research, teaching and advising, Carolyn organizes the biannual review meetings of the Center for Integrated Circuits and Systems, which Professor Lee directs. She is responsible for all of the logistics from the invitations for the 70 to 100 attendees, to arranging hotels and negotiating rates, through preparation of the Center's reports. She also maintains the Center's web site and handles the Center's billings and provides assistance to Center members who wish to get in touch with faculty members or students.

Another example of Carolyn's energy, enthusiasm and efficiency was her administration of the week long International Vacuum Nanoelectronics Conference at MIT last year. According to Professor Akinwande, he was the chair, but Carolyn was the real organizer. This included weekly planning meetings; preparing the conference announcement and brochure; organizing events such as a banquet excursion tour of Massachusetts landmarks; assembling abstracts and the conference proceedings; compiling subMITted papers; managing the budget; taking, directing, and attending to inquiries about the conference (from the US, Europe and Asia); writing and mailing letters for visas for international guests, interfacing with multiple professional societies; and other responsibilities too numerous to mention.

Professor Lee is the head of EECS's Area III, one of the six divisions responsible for managing the department's doctoral programs. Therefore, Carolyn handles the administrative duties of setting up Area III monthly lunch meetings, preparing reports on students, and responding to requests coming out of the EECS graduate office, all of which, we are told, she does remarkably well.

With the same amazing energy and efficiency and the best MIT spirit, Carolyn makes the interests of graduate and undergraduate students her highest priority. She follows up with students who are sick or who are having problems academically and she makes sure that any issues regarding undergraduate students are taken care of first. Students know she is there to help or to listen if they need someone to talk to and we are told that many ex-students call to thank her after they have left MIT.

In addition to all of the above, Carolyn is active at the Institute level in the Support Staff Working Group, which has also benefited from her tremendous efficiency, enthusiasm and energy.

Carolyn, how do you do it? It is with awe and gratitude that we present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Rita Demeo, Biological Engineering


As we all know, there are supervisors at MIT who, perhaps because of their energy level or their creativity or both, present greater challenges to the staff than other supervisors do. Our first infinite mile award winner, Rita Demeo, has served in the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and more recently in the Biological Engineering Division, as the administrative assistant to Professor William Thilly for roughly16 years. Those of you who know Bill will understand just what a challenging job that is.

Some people refer to Rita as a saint and reliable sources tell me that's not far from the truth. She works long hours on papers, grant proposals and articles for publication, often long into the night, without being asked. We are told that she is always willing to help, always putting her job first. Rita is friendly and welcoming to newcomers to the group. She organizes birthday celebrations for everyone, so that no one feels left out. She has the ability to bring about calm in the midst of storms, definitely a saintly attribute. Often on holidays, on her own initiative and at her own expense, Rita provides refreshments for the people in her group. We are told that Rita goes out of her way to help others and that her helpful demeanor, her patience, and her cheerful attitude have a calming influence on those around her. She is described as "a breath of fresh air." Another letter writer tells us that he has never heard Rita utter an unkind word about anyone. One letter writer states that Rita is very nurturing and caring, and because of this the students and staff find great comfort in confiding in her.

Yet another letter writer tells us that Rita is one of those rare people whose ability to maintain a spirit of cheerfulness make the stresses of grant deadlines, course outlines and the myriad problems of MIT researchers (students through professors) easier to face. She always has time to hear out a problem or find a way to help or offer sympathy to others, no matter what may be happening in her own life.

Rita Demeo goes the extra mile for everyone she works with and for anyone who walks through her door. The consensus is that Rita is a saint and that Professor Thilly, the Biological Engineering Division, and the School are indeed truly blessed to have her support. Rita, it is with great joy and many thanks that we present you with this well-deserved School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Diversity and Community.

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Esther Greaves Estwick, Administrative Services Organization


It is not only her extensive knowledge of MIT’s policies and procedures and her appreciation for its many cultures, but it is her caring and compassionate application of this knowledge and appreciation that has earned Esther Greaves Estwick her outstanding reputation throughout the MIT community.

Esther brings 23 years of MIT HR experience to her current position as personnel administrator for the ASO, serving ChemE, MSE, Archaeology, and CBE in the key areas of recruiting and staffing, performance management, visa issues, and policy interpretation. We learn that Esther quickly demonstrated excellence in matching people and positions and is a natural supervisor, working in an open and collaborative way. We learn that she has been instrumental in bringing the support staff of these different units together for common benefit.

The HR transactions alone for this population of around 400 can be daunting. Esther also brings a portfolio of skills to the associated employee relations issues. Her good listening skills, solid thinking, sound judgment, and considerable compassion are applied to every situation and effectively alleviate a variety of very sensitive problems. Esther began her HR MIT career in faculty and staff information services and was promoted into increasingly responsible roles. It is in her most recent HR role as staff assistant to the SoE human resources officer that the Dean’s Office became dependent upon and most appreciative of Esther’s extensive knowledge base. In recent years, we have experienced considerable turnover of HRO’s ( at least relative to history when we had one HRO for two decades), and it is Esther who oriented each new HRO to the School’s cultures and idiosyncratic practices. It was and is her unique transfer of information which was always thorough, thoughtful, and timely and always delivered with an extraordinary warmth, generosity, and sense of tranquility, that make her so special.

One HRO, who worked with Esther in HR, described her as the "go to" person who, no matter how many interruptions, how many questions, how many extra tasks, or how late she had to stay to get the work done, never demonstrated any impatience, not a word, not a look, not even a sense.

Esther’s in-depth knowledge and familiarity with MIT policies and procedures, as well as her experience with the academic appointment process, identified her as an invaluable contributor to not one or two but several of the design teams as we prepared for the electronic integration of HR and payroll . We thank you Esther for contributing so much of a foundation to our eventual success in this venture.

Esther, you possess an extraordinary combination of expertise and interpersonal skills that are appreciated by many throughout the campus. For over 20 years, the School of Engineering has been blessed with your dedicated comMITment and consistent demonstration of going the extra mile. It is my personal pleasure to have worked so closely with you for much of this time, and I am indebted to you for so willingly sharing your expertise with your HRO managers and thereby contributing to their success. On behalf of all who have experienced the joy of working with you, it is our pleasure to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Peter G. Houk, MIT Glass Lab (Materials Science and Engineering)


It is all due to Peter Houk’s initiative that we are awed by the spectacular annual display of more than 1000 glass pumpkins installed and sold to the MIT community at the "great glass pumpkin patch" sale each year. Peter began his career with the MIT glass lab in 1993. He was invited to teach in the lab while he continued his education in glass blowing, painting, and sculpture at the Pilchuck Glass School and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. He has designed and executed commissions internationally, and his work is held in many collections, including the Corning Museum of Glass and the Museum of American Glass at Wheaton Village. In 1997, he took over the leadership of the lab and quickly expanded the program to accommodate intermediate and advanced students. An appreciative student notes that during his tenure as the director of the Glass Lab, Peter has created an environment that fosters unprecedented levels of enthusiasm, interest, and understanding in the glass arts. Through Peter's uncompromising dedication, the Glass Lab has become an indispensable resource for the fine arts community at MIT.

Peter’s artistic abilities are enhanced by his initiative. He was instrumental in organizing the Page Hazlegrove Lectureship, which annually invites prominent glass artists from around the world to lecture and work in residency at MIT. In 2002, in partnership with the MIT Counsel for the Arts, Peter established a yearly scholarship to the Pilchuck Glass School. This scholarship affords one student every summer to study at Peter’s alma mater, a world-renowned glass school in Seattle.

Peter has also pioneered new projects that promote and inform the communities outside of MIT. These projects include the casting of sconces for the Simmons Hall dorMITory and the production of tiles for the international tile exchange. Perhaps the most visible of Peter's initiatives is "the great glass pumpkin patch," which is the culmination of a year's worth of glass production by beginning, intermediate, and advanced students who worked together for a few hours each week or so, in teams of six or seven, to produce pumpkins for the sale.

A genuine lover of teaching, Peter has touched the lives of many students. One appreciative faculty member says he can think of no better example of someone at MIT who has touched so many through excellence, dedication, and caring. He approaches every student interaction with the same enthusiasm and patience as he has for his art, and years after graduating, students stop by the lab to share the lifetime impact of their memories.

We learn from an admiring colleague that many benefit from Peter’s generosity, for he has given glass-blowing demonstrations to all of the staff and has also made holiday gifts for the administration to give to staff members. The rumor is that these gifts were spectacular paperweights. Peter, our IMA gift may not be as artistic, but we do hope you will enjoy it, and we also hope you will be open to considering us a potential client for next year's IMA awards! Peter, the entire community appreciates the generosity you demonstrate by sharing your gifted talent with us all. It is our pleasure to present you with an SoE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Jennifer K. Leith, Aeronautics and Astronautics


Jennie Leith is the program coordinator for the Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction (more easily remembered as PARTNER). PARTNER is an FAA/NASA/Transport Canada-sponsored center of excellence. Nominators want us to know that Jennie manages the PARTNER program with a level of professionalism, competence, and dedication that is truly outstanding. Within all nominations, a theme emerged that professed an extraordinary level of dedication demonstrated by someone who is always ready with a helping hand regardless of how far into the night the project takes her or how much personal time she must sacrifice as a result. The AO in Aero writes that she knows Jennie’s work will always be timely, thorough, accurate, and exceptional.

Jenny began work as an administrative assistant and received consistently excellent and outstanding reviews. But Jennie really began to blossom when she moved into financial work. Jennie’s attention to detail, her quick and intelligent grasp of issues relating to financial policies, and her persistence in "getting it right" made her role in the department one of increasing importance. She eventually took on the academic and research program accounts of several very active faculty, managing a huge volume of transactions. But she did much more than monitor activity for appropriateness and allowableness! She took the initiative to compare spending over time, and investigated trends, reporting problems appropriately to the AO.

When the FAA award for PARTNER was received, Jennie was the obvious person to administer it. She had to get up to speed quickly on sponsored program administration in order to establish policies and procedures for PARTNER universities and industrial partners. Indeed she learned so much about cost-sharing, matching funds, and salary certification that she was invited to explain such issues to the department’s seasoned research administrators group, most of whom were humbled to realize how little they actually had needed to retain over the years.

As administrator for the PARTNER program, Jennie interfaces with eight universities, 43 industrial partners, and three sponsors on a regular basis. She is the newsletter editor, manages travel arrangements for MIT participants as well as others, and of course does all of the financial reporting. The AO informs us that jennie’s work would challenge any type of audit, internal or external, however extensive, to find anything at all to cite for improvement. The associate department head indicates that Jennie does everything with the highest level of excellence. He writes that her level of professionalism and dedication are unequaled, and that her attention to detail, follow-through, and comMITment to her job go above and beyond earning her his complete dependence and trust.

A colleague notes that jennie researches every task thoroughly and produces instructions and backup no matter what the topic. She sends anticipated Q&A materials in advance of all workshops and conferences that she manages. Whatever the assignment, it is completed letter perfect or Jennie doesn’t consider the job done. An example of her due diligence resulted in OSP’s need to improve documentation regarding government meeting expense regulations! Jennie does all of this with a pleasant and modest manner. It is our real pleasure to present you with this well deserved SoE Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Melanie Miller, Chemical Engineering


Our next Infinite Mile Award winner is Melanie Miller. Melanie is the administrative assistant to Professor Robert Armstrong, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, but it seems that Melanie recognizes no boundaries to her job description. She is there to help any individual needing her assistance and in the three years that she's been in Chemical Engineering headquarters her responsibilities have grown and grown and grown. Letter writers describe the numerous additional tasks she's taken on, noting that she does so with apparent pleasure, always with a smile on her face. For example, in addition to the customary responsibilities associated with the position of assistant to the department head, Melanie drafts the minutes of department faculty meetings, organizes an annual named lecture and dinner, and recently accepted responsibility for writing the department's annual newsletter

We are told that Melanie makes complex administrative tasks appear simple and she is able to improve on all the activities given to her. No job is too big or too small and she finds joy in a job well done. Music to all our ears, right? Melanie is described by one letter writer as an encouraging, supportive and caring person, as one who creates a positive work environment and boosts the morale of her peers. As many of you know, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering share administrative services through the ASO. One of the goals of the ASO is to bring the support staff members of the two departments together. We are told that Melanie has embraced this idea and enthusiastically provides the ASO with valuable feedback and guidance.

Melanie is quick to respond to those in need, regardless of her workload, and I want to emphasize that these are not just words — there are examples too lengthy to describe here. She is always willing to go that extra mile with a cheerful smile. One letter writer tells us she has never heard Melanie complain and that Melanie always seems to have the same calm demeanor. Her presence in Chemical Engineering headquarters enhances the entire department, making it, and MIT, a better place for us all. I know from personal experience how remarkably pleasant, helpful, and effective Melanie is.

Melanie, we are very grateful for all you do. It is a pleasure to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Darlene K. Ray, Biological Engineering


Darlene Ray is working at the cutting edge of the one of the fastest-growing areas on campus, in the country, and around the world. She is administering two large interdisciplinary programs that integrate biology with other fields, including engineering and computer science. We learn that it is the high quality of Darlene’s work, her enthusiasm, and the excellence that pervades everything she does that contribute to the strength of these MIT programs.

Darlene administers the groundbreaking Computational and Systems Biology initiative (CSBi) graduate program and the NIH interdepartmental biotechnology training grant program. She also continues to work for a faculty member in chemistry who couldn’t deal with the thought of losing her dedicated and quality service when she transferred to the SoE! The CSBi program involves faculty, students and curricula from multiple departments across the schools of engineering, science, and architecture. This new program is one of the most complicated on campus and very visible as it requires her to interact effectively with a wide spectrum of people, policies, and procedures, as the program anticipates growth in both size and stature. Stature — not only on campus, but in the eyes of our peer institutions around the world. Large training grant submissions often require integrating information from as many as two dozen faculty members (not all of whom are known for following directions or meeting deadlines), student recruitment and retention information from several participating departments, complex formatting and content requirements, letters of support from senior administration, and much more. In this past year, Darlene has organized and submitted two full proposals, one pre-proposal, and one non-competitive renewal. Her capacity for volume combined with her dedication and diligence result in extraordinarily well organized proposals often exceeding 200 pages with the plans and ideas of the participating faculty expertly integrated.

Proposal preparation and submission is but one small part of her job. Knowledge of MIT systems and procedures and her planning and organizational skills are equally well employed on the many annual activities required for the biotechnology training program, including an off-site retreat, an ethics program, myriad minority recruitment activities, and grant reporting. Similary for the CSBi program, she organizes all admissions activities, including interviews and orientation events as well as a fall research forum involving more than 200 attendees.

As you can imagine, the varying interests of multiple programs can create conflict. When problems arise, she quickly takes the initiative to apply her excellent problem-solving skills with an appropriate sense of when and what she must inform her supervisors of, and when she can protect them from any involvement at all. Her faculty supervisor for the CSBi program tells us that "the initiative she has taken in learning about the goals and philosophy of the programs and their relationship to other programs at MIT and across the country has resulted in her making important suggestions, critical connections, and proactive action at key intervals to keep us at our competitive best."

Darlene, how wonderful to have earned such admiration and respect from the faculty! On behalf of all faculty, students, and staff, we are delighted to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Stephen Rudolph, Civil and Environmental Engineering


Stephen Rudolph is a second generation MIT'er. As a child he would come in to MIT on Saturdays with his father, who worked in the shop in Civil Engineering. For this afternoon, we will put aside the safety considerations of children playing in MIT machine shops, and simply enjoy the wonderful image of a young Steve, trotting behind his father, learning his trade.

It is clear he was born to it. Steve Rudolph, who has been the machinist in charge of the "CEE shop" for many years, has touched the lives of many students and faculty. He has been a superb contributor to numerous activities within the department as well as interdepartmental efforts like Terrascope for MIT freshmen and the SEED academy for local high school students. One letter writer calls Steve the "cornerstone" upon which the department builds its experimental research and education. He is an outstanding machinist and an absolute perfectionist. He is always eager to learn new technologies and over the years, has become proficient in the use of increasingly sophisticated tools. His flexibility is a major asset to the department.

Steve is also a fantastic mentor to students, working meticulously with them to transform conceptual designs into physical reality. His impact is easily seen by looking at the acknowledgements in graduate theses of which he's received many. What wonderful, fitting and lasting tributes!

Recently, Steve has been working with Terrascope, helping freshmen construct museum exhibits. One letter writer says that Steve is the answer to all questions in Terrascope's course 1.016. He is the secret weapon on which all the students rely. His ability to communicate and work with 40 wonderfully energetic MIT freshmen, many of whom have very little experience working with tools, laying out projects before beginning construction and other key skills, is truly impressive. Each student has a different and challenging idea. Steve works tirelessly with the students to help them think through and execute their projects. Late in the semester, when students are building at all hours, Steve can often be found right there with them. He keeps an eye on all of the student teams, tracking their progress and looking for opportunities to step in and help. And he can help with almost anything, from teaching one student the basics of handling simple tools to helping another work through difficult design, engineering and fabrication problems. A skilled craftsman and fabricator, Steve also jumps in to help with physically demanding, difficult, or tedious tasks. Steve can be tough with safety, cleanliness, and quality and at the same time sympathetic and supportive. It is always a pleasure to see the whole Rudolph family, including Grandma and Grandpa, visiting the students' exhibits during opening day. We are told that Steve goes around, smiling and rejoicing at the students' accomplishments. And he has good reason to be proud, even if he does occasionally have to slip behind the scenes quietly to fix, say, a leaky river.

Steve, you are indeed an inspiration, not just to your students, but to us all and it is our great pleasure to recognize your many contributions with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Peter W Stahle, Nuclear Science and Engineering


Although his official appointment, for almost 16 years, is as research engineer in Nuclear Science and Engineering, Peter Stahle is a major contributor to the success of many research projects in the Nuclear Reactor Lab, the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, and the Francis Bitter Magnet Lab, as well as the department.

Appreciated as one with a "can do" attitude, Peter also contributes to the department’s EHS program by attending to the inspection process. One nominator notes that Peter brings a very practical, experienced eye to not only the compliance issues in the buildings of northwest campus but to common-sense safety within the face of liMITed resources. One faculty nominator indicates that Peter is known as an outstanding contributor to every project for which he has responsibilities and for those projects that he is often asked to consult for. His technical expertise is very broad, ranging from analytical to applied, "hands on" activities. He is highly dedicated and very conscientious in assuring that his work gets done and that he supports the overall goals of the project.

His primary faculty supervisor indicates that Peter is not only instrumental, but critical, to the success of numerous research projects . He is a, quote, "first-rate design engineer" in a range of projects and is always willing to go the extra mile staying well after hours to complete a project. He has designed and supervised the building of experimental facilities like thermal hydraulic test stands, and he has designed and constructed a fission convertor facility to be used at the MIT reactor. We can all understand how precise, safe, and stable his work must be to be inserted in the reactor environment. We learn that Peter is regularly challenged with complex problems for which he must solve engineering and safety issues with scientific accuracy. He usually finds each project equally challenging due to funding constraints and other administrative snafus as well as multiple personality issues. We read that all the while Peter maintains a friendly and cooperative demeanor, whatever the challenge, and overcomes all obstacles in clever, creative, and efficient ways. One faculty nominator describes Peter as having high technical competence, a dynamic and innovative attitude, and solid work ethics.

Nominations indicate that Peter has a lasting impact on our graduate students as he teaches them to design and build equipment for their thesis work. We are informed that in addition to being an excellent technician, he is patient, caring, and above all dedicated to educating students in how to help themselves accomplish physical tasks essential to their work but for which they have little aptitude (that is, before learning from Peter.) Peter’s generous nature also has lasting impact in other areas. For example, he helped one faculty member assemble an X-ray machine donated from a local hospital by building a lead shielding box weighing over 4000 pounds to house the X-ray tube head. The unit has become a valuable research instrument used by many other research groups in the department and outside of MIT.

Peter, on behalf of the northwest campus, Nuclear Science and Engineering, the School, and the Institute, it is our pleasure to present you with an SoE Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Kathleen M. Sullivan, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science


Kathleen Sullivan’s highly professional approach, her ability to balance priorities for multiple projects and supervisors, and her exceptional communications and interpersonal skills identify her as the mainstay of the well established VI-A internship program as well as the EECS Industrial Connection Program and the Women’s Technology Program. We learn that she is extremely competent, reliable, and diligent in carrying out her responsibilities for all of the projects she supports – and she continues to take on new projects.

Kathleen’s primary responsibility is to the VI-A program. Established in 1917, this 88-year-old work/study program presently has about 60 students per year and 12 active companies. The director of the program tells us that Kathleen oversees the success of 500 interviews conducted within a two-day period by VI-A companies each year, and she introduces this process with the organization of the annual business meeting, dinner, and company open house held the day before. VI-A students, companies, and faculty advisors all remark on Kathy’s extraordinary ability to coordinate and manage the large program flawlessly and with a friendly, sincere, and caring manner. Other program responsibilities include the invoicing of member companies, managing correspondence with all VI-A students and companies for mid-term and final reports, as well as internship evaluations, preparation of brochures and myriad other communication tasks among students, faculty advisors, and member companies. The faculty director gives her the highest compliment possible when he says he is able to continue his teaching and research activities because he knows the daily administration of the VI-A program is in the excellent and caring hands of Kathy. Since 2002, Kathy has introduced many cost-saving efficiencies. She converted a myriad of manual forms, letters, and other tools to efficient electronic templates. She selects meeting venues that save real dollars and that also provide her with more efficient oversight during the two-day interviewing process. Her careful management of company invoicing and tracking of subsequent fellowship payments inspires confidence from the students.

Both the VI-A program and the Idustrial Connection Program have benefited from Kathy’s highly effective communication skills, which have resulted in two new VI-A companies. In her role of supporting the ICP, Kathy provides event logistics support for 16 member companies, including 19 information sessions and technical talks, and she also hosted a career fair for EECS students. The director of ICP writes that Kathy is always ready to deal with the unexpected problems that arise, and she solves them efficiently. She is very responsive to the needs of ICP company representatives; she has also increased her knowledge of ICP event planning so that she could now run an information session or technical talk by herself, if necessary!

During the admissions process in the February/March timeframe and during the June/July sessions, Kathy also supports the Women’s Technology Program. Tasks include processing WTP admissions applications (a mere 754 in 2004 and a more managable ???? 400 in 2005), planning and managing the final banquet, and general support while WTP is in session. Does she need more to do? She thought so. She now assists with the EECS donor stewardship process and manages the department head’s research accounts, including oversight of his graduate students' purchases.

She takes on all of this with an eye for improving existing procedures, asking good questions, and using good judgment. Kathy is known to cheerfully and competently handle a very broad range of responsibilities, from cultivating company relationships to cleaning up a room after an event. Most notably, she is known for bringing the same quality to the routine and mundane as she does to the more intellectually challenging. Kathy, on behalf of EECS, the School, and MIT, it is my pleasure to present you with an SoE IMA Award for Excellence.

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