School of Engineering - Infinite Mile Awards

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2007 SoE Awards Ceremony and Recipients

Group Photo

IMA for Excellence

Fred Crowley

Alina Haverty

Kurt Broderick

Jeanette Marchocki

Rhonda Maynard

Ada Ziolkowski

Vicky Murphy

Chris Resto

George LaBonte

J. Braun

IMA for Sustained Excellence

Claire Benoit

Mary Hertema-Miller

Nancy Martin

Victoria Palay

IMA for Diversity and Community

Cheryl Charles

May 10, 2007


I’m Tom Magnanti, Dean of Engineering, and once again it’s my pleasure to welcome you to the School’s Annual Infinite Mile Awards Ceremony. As Dean, I love the month of May. We award tenure to young faculty, and fellowships and prizes to students. We take time to honor the members of our community who will soon retire (granted those are bittersweet events) and, in the School of Engineering, we celebrate the accomplishments of our staff with these Infinite Mile Awards. Of course, there’s also the beautiful weather and baseball.

It doesn’t seem possible, but this is our Seventh Infinite Mile Award Ceremony! There are currently 99 members of the fellowship of School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award winners. Today 15 people, with a combined total of 260 years of MIT experience, will also receive Infinite Mile Awards and their names will be added to the IMA plaque in the School of Engineering conference room.

I ask all of you who have received School of Engineering Infinite Mile Awards in previous years to stand up. (Let’s give them a round of applause, too.)

Thank you. I’m so pleased that you have been able to join us today as we honor more of your colleagues for their contributions of excellence.

My next pleasure is to recognize and thank the members of the Dean’s Team who organized today’s event: they are Catherine Avril, Mary Anne Gowen, Donna Harding, Lisa Magnano-Bleheen, Brian Tavares, and Sandy Tenorio. We owe a special note of thanks to Donna Harding for keeping us on track and for handling so many of the details that go into staging an event like this one.

I like to say that MIT’s School of Engineering is the best school of engineering in the galaxy, because it’s true! And I do not doubt for a moment that we have the best staff in the galaxy as well!

As those of you who have attended this ceremony before might recall, we have two intertwined themes:

Excellence and Joy. They are indeed a powerful combination.

You might also recall that on this occasion, I like to quote Pearl Buck who said,

The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence.

As you will soon hear, our Infinite Mile award winners embody joy in excellence.

A very special note of thanks is to those of you who took the time to nominate your coworkers and colleagues. Your thoughtful contributions make this IMA celebration possible.

It seems an appropriate time to provide you a brief update on the status of the current Rewards and Recognition Assessment Pilot we are conducting in the School of Engineering. This School assessment, covering not only the Infinite Mile Award program, but also your local DLC spot award programs, is led by Catherine Avril in cooperation with HR. As you know, a major component of the assessment was a School wide survey. We sincerely thank all who took the time to respond. We received a respectable response rate and the initial analysis indicates, as we expected, some successes and some areas that need evaluation. We are hopeful that a complete analysis will enable us to substantially enhance the Programs.

Finally, we would like to thank all of you for taking the time today to share in this joyful and inspirational event.

Now, on with the show.


Hi, I’m Donna Savicki and I had the pleasure of convening the selection committee for this year’s awards. The members of the selection committee have joined us up front. As is our custom, they are all former award recipients and stellar performers themselves. Please join me in thanking Esther Greaves, a 2005 Infinite Mile Award winner, Mary Gibson, class of 2004, Lucille O’Hehir, class of 2003, and Steve Rudolph, class of 2005.

I would like to join Tom in thanking those of you who took the time to submit nominations this year, and in the past. Even after seven years, reading the nominations for these awards is incredibly inspiring and humbling. Each time, Sheila and I are struck not only by the wonderful work our Infinite Mile Award winners do, but by the generous appreciation shown by the letter writers themselves. We hope that the citations we read today will inspire in all of you, the same sense of awe and gratitude reading the nominations inspired in us.

Those of you who have attended this ceremony in prior years know that Sheila Kanode and I will read brief citations about each of our award winners. The citations were drawn, often verbatim, from the nominations we received from all of you. We trust you will forgive our blatant plagiarism.

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. We’ve done our best to accommodate the scheduling conflicts of some of the nominators, so you will find that we will be presenting the citations in a different order from the one you see in the program. I will begin.

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Fred Crowley


Between us, Sheila and I have almost 80 years of MIT experience, so we know what we’re talking about when we say that our next award winner, Fred Crowley, is one of the brightest stars of MIT’s central administration.
Fred is recovering from surgery and can not be here with us today.  We have scheduled another time to give him his award and have his picture taken with the Dean. Fred was adamant about not missing out on that. 

Up until MIT switched its payroll to SAP, it seemed there was virtually no payroll problem that could not be solved, and it fell to Fred to solve the toughest problems.  Now we all know there are people whom we do not always enjoy calling with a problem.  I must confess that there are days when I might be regarded as one such person.  But those of us who lived for many, many years under the old payroll system, a system that was, we are told, held together with spit and prayers, we never hesitated to lay the thorniest, most complicated payroll problems at Fred’s feet.  He would pick them up, jostle them about, make wonderful jokes, then cut to the chase, solve the problem, produce a spreadsheet if necessary, and offer to talk to the person effected, even, or perhaps especially, when it was one of the more volatile members of our community, not that we have very many of those – not in the School of Engineering, anyway.
But Fred was not just the king of solving payroll problems, he was a master at preventing them.  Six years ago Fred’s admirers nominated him for an Institute Excellence award, which he won.  At that time I wrote that during my ,at that time 27, years in administration at MIT, I had been continuously amazed by how few problems occurred with payroll.  (Alas, this was pre-SAP.)  I pointed out that Payroll met literally thousands of deadlines every week, and every month.  They were (and still are) under constant pressure.  They have a huge constituency, possibly the largest at MIT and yet I had never met with anything but a professional and courteous response from anyone I talked to in Payroll. 

Obviously, it was an extremely well run operation.  Fred and his staff not only met more routine deadlines than anyone else on campus, but they were also the recipients of numerous special requests, each one of which got their full, respectful and effective attention. 
Fred is a rare individual in so many wonderful ways.  To our enormous benefit, he is actually intrigued by complex and archaic tax and other government regulations and procedures.  Fred is respected nationally for his knowledge of tax law and financial matters.  Officials at the federal, state and local level take his calls and letters and respond thoughtfully to his questions.  Individuals at other institutions seek his advice and have benefited from his efforts to obtain clarity and make sense out of what to the rest of us is apparent nonsense.  Also to MIT’s enormous benefit, Fred is an expert and an unfailingly reliable resource on matters related to the payroll, taxation and financial responsibilities of MIT’s international students and scholars.  He conducts workshops, fields questions and advocates for the needs of the many international members of our community, often one person at a time.
But it is not just the arcane details of payroll and taxes that engage Fred, who is known for his stirring lectures on the problems with the US federal tax code and how they relate to the MIT payroll.  People engage Fred and they engage him fully.  He is sensitive to each person’s needs and concerns.  He has devoted his life’s energy to serving the MIT community, with time out for the occasional game of golf, and we are forever in his debt.

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Alina Haverty


In her role as Administrative Assistant to the Executive Officer of Chemical Engineering, Alina Haverty trained and oriented four different individuals in just a little more than a year for yet another role, that of Administrative Assistant to the Department Head. Most recently she decided it might be more efficient to do it herself, so she took the job on! She likely did so saying “Okay, let’s go!” One colleague indicated that this is the “can do” attitude with which Alina tackles every new task. This same colleague attests that Alina taught her invaluable lessons in taking initiative and in multi tasking.

Since she joined MIT in July 2002, Alina has been described as the heart and soul of the Chemical Engineering department. As the assistant to the Executive Officer, Alina scheduled classes and teaching assignments and maintained the course bulletin, book orders, and the course evaluations. In addition she took responsibility for oversight of room and equipment reservations, key coordination, many contact lists, the preparation of the Report to the President, and last year the collection of course-related information for the ABET evaluation. Yet all of her work has been of the utmost professional quality: pro-active, complete, accurate, and on time.

She brings professionalism, personal commitment, and a friendly face to the front office, where she has indeed been the human face of Chemical Engineering and the first one that most department visitors see. Her friendliness, energy, and commitment to help those who enter ChemE is surely remembered by all. She has served two Executive Officers. One of the Executive Officers writes, and I quote, “Her warm demeanor, eternally helpful attitude, and willingness to make time for any interruption, no matter how small the issue, has set the tone for personal interactions within the Department.” Her service goes way beyond being helpful. We learn that when she arrived at MIT, the department’s room reservation system was less than optimal and certainly not effective enough for Alina, so working with their IT department, she implemented a new web-based system that saves considerable time in administration.

In addition to her many professional responsibilities, Alina initiates celebrations for weddings and babies. She sends get well wishes to the ill and can always be relied upon to lend an ear when someone needs support. She is always concerned for the well being of her co-workers.

Alina, we have no doubt that you will be successful in your new role as Assistant to the Department Head, but we also know that many will miss your friendly welcoming approach in the “front office”. There is concern that your ability to multi task considerable responsibility effectively while meeting and greeting everyone with warmth and engagement will not be easily duplicated.

Alina, it is our special pleasure to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Kurt Broderick


Kurt Broderick is the specialist responsible for managing the Micro Systems Technology Laboratory’s Exploratory Materials Lab, theEML, which he runs essentially on his own. This means that Kurt trains the roughly 90 students per month who use the EML, he advises them on their processes and helps them when things don’t work out as expected. Kurt is also in charge of maintaining all of the EML’s machines.

In spite of this large workload, Kurt is always helpful to the EML users; he is time- and cost-conscious and understands the importance of prompt responses and feedback. Because EML is supposed to be the most flexible of the MTL fabrication facilities, he works with the users to develop unique techniques sometimes using weird materials. (I’ll have you know that’s a direct quote - “Weird” materials) Kurt is always happy to push the machines to their limit if it will help a student- and he pushes his own limits as well.

Kurt is also an excellent team player. He works very well with MTL’s other specialists and they help each other out with machine repairs and process questions. Kurt often volunteers for tasks that are outside his area of responsibility and does them well and promptly.

Kurt is extremely hard-working, reliable, and highly professional. His contributions to the MTL are invaluable. He definitely goes the extra mile.

Students tell us that Kurt is always there to help, even when he is very busy,or during holidays or weekends. He expedites any repair of equipment as fast as possible. He can be reached (via) his cell phone anytime during the day. He is kind and responsive to people’s needs. He has enormous energy and enthusiasm.

If you google Kurt, as one member of this year’s selection committee did, you will find numerous acknowledgements in students’ theses of the role Kurt played in their MIT careers. Here are a few examples,

Kurt Broderick has shown me so many tricks and nuances of the Technology Research Laboratory, he has probably cut six months from my development time.

I … want to thank Kurt Broderick who built the first prototypes. . . , and was a source of constant help in the fabrication lab.

Thank you . . . Kurt . . . for all your help and patience in the fab. I really don’t think that I would have gotten anywhere on this project if it wasn’t for your expertise and dedication to helping all the users of the EML. You were an invaluable source of knowledge on practical plasma etching, and the sometimes quirky workings of Plasmatherm.”

I’m not sure I feel very comfortable when the experts in Bldg. 39 use words like weird and quirky to describe the materials they are working with, but I am sure that I, too, am grateful that Kurt Broderick is there beside them.

Thank you Kurt. It is a pleasure and a privilege for us to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Jeanette Marchocki


In July of last year, CEE’s academic administrator of 14 years transferred to another position at MIT. Since then, the Department hired, then lost, two academic administrators, both of whom left for personal reasons. They say the third time’s a charm and we certainly hope that is true for CEE’s Academic Programs Office (locally known as APO), but today we want to celebrate the person who kept the ship afloat during all that turmoil, Jeanette Marchocki.

Jeanette is the Administrative Assistant in CEE’s APO, but over the past year she graciously and effectively took full responsibility for the day to day operations of the office. She independently managed the preparation for two registration days, the end of term grades meetings, graduate student appointments, and assignments of undergraduate student advisors. She has gathered data for Visiting Committee presentations, worked with undergraduate students on a variety of projects including choice of majors, Parents Weekend, and the Resume Book, and accomplished many other tasks that would comprise a list, and I quote, “although maybe not infinitely long, easily one mile long”.

In spite of this, Jeanette has continued to greet students and faculty alike with her contagious smile, making all feel welcome in the office.
In fact, she has demonstrated that she will do all that is humanly possible to help them. One morning, it happened to be the day before the departmental grades meeting, she called in to apologize for having to go to the doctor’s after a fall at home. Yes, she actually apologized and assured the Acting Graduate Officer that she would be in the next day to get grade summaries prepared for delivery and go over potential problem cases prior to the meeting. And of course she saved the day!

The entire department is indebted to Jeanette. Here are just a couple of the remarks indicative of their appreciation. One student says “Despite being so busy with all her other responsibilities, Jeanette was always upbeat and helpful when we met to work on the resume book”.

A faculty member and chair of the undergraduate committee says: “Jeanette is incredible in her infinite effort for, and dedication to, our students and faculty. I could count on her at any time in this hard transition period, and, hopefully, I will be able to for many years to come”.

The department head writes, “ I am most pleased to write very strong words of support for Jeanette. I consider her a rarity among rarities”.

Jeanette, your positive attitude and pure dedication, during this incredibly trying and extended transition period, is exemplary and we all extend our heartfelt appreciation.

It is our special pleasure to present you with this SoE IMA for Excellence.

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Rhonda Maynard


Our next award recipient, Rhonda Maynard, is a relative newcomer to MIT(of course, for many of us, anyone who’s been here for less than 20 years is a newcomer).

Rhonda is an administrative assistant in the Microsystems Technology Laboratory (the MTL) where she works with several faculty members. One of her supervisors writes, “It is impossible to overstate how much I have come to rely on her in order to work effectively as a faculty member . . . . (she is) a collaborator in the many tasks that comprise my job. . . . I . . . rely on Rhonda to help me establish an environment that is happy and conducive to work.”

We are told that Rhonda designed and maintains the web site for one of her faculty supervisor’s research groups. The site includes pictures Rhonda takes of the students – not mug shots, but pictures that reflect the dynamic working environment the group shares. She also designed a poster for the research group.

When Rhonda was asked to transcribe class notes, she went far beyond. She came up with a layout and a design for the notes and found pictures on the web to replace the faculty member’s hand-drawings. The overall effect wasspectacular. The faculty supervisor says he continues to benefit from Rhonda’s efforts in the teaching reviews he receives from students who are grateful for such wonderful notes.

One of Rhonda’s colleagues writes, “her mind is amazing and she strives for excellence. Add to that she has excellent writing skills . . . (she) was invited by (the) director to attend (the Lab’s) annual research conference as a reporter and write an article for a new MTL publication. . . ” Yet another colleague tells us that “Rhonda has quickly proven herself.” She selflessly takes on additional work and responsibilities. One year, she volunteered for a special project and in two weeks, completed a task that took three people to complete the previous year.

One faculty member tells us that Rhonda performs her job “flawlessly” and that she “. . . has a can-do attitude. She truly understands that her job is to ensure that the office runs perfectly, (the) students are supported and that the faculty she supports are working efficiently. Rhonda knows how to anticipate problems and take care of them before they become serious. She has also been pro-active by finding and delivering on assignments that are not directly in her job description. . . . Her artistic skills coupled with her organizational skills are truly remarkable. . . . (Rhonda) is very well respected by . . . students and other staff at MTL because of her genuine care for the people that work around her. . . . When things get a little hectic, she calmly gets through the storm with a smile.”

Rhonda is not only artistically talented, extremely well organized, and an excellent writer, but she also prepares financial forecasts for her faculty. Rhonda, is there anything you cannot do?

It is an honor and a pleasure to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Claire Benoit


We can all imagine the mountains of information associated with the graduate admissions process in EECS, but no one is more aware of the sheer volume than Claire Benoit and we learn that she is the reason the EECS admission season runs so smoothly.

Claire is the first person you see when entering the EECS Graduate Office and she is always ready and willing to help. Her main focus however is the graduate admissions process. She manages all the tasks associated with over 2500 graduate applications each year, including phone call and email inquiries, and she does it all with ease and dignity. Claire handles over half of the application volume in the entire School of Engineering!

Given that behind each application there is an eager and anxious student desperate to ensure that their application receives full and fair treatment, this is an ominous task, and one that must be accomplished on a strict timetable in order to ensure that the department recruits the best and the brightest students before its competitors do!

Claire is adept at the art of multi tasking - she reviews one student’s individual folder, talks with and assures another student on the phone, emails another requesting missing application information, while accomplishing the daily operations of the EECS graduate office.
We are informed that as a result of her effective coordination and maintenance of the growing number of databases and data entries, she can retrieve data and print any type of letter at a moment’s notice on the right letterhead with the right enclosures and the right signatures to be picked up by DHL at the right time. As the department moves steadily toward a completely on-line system, it is Claire who understands its intricacies and solves the related problems. She is the go to person for systems issues and she graciously teaches and supervises others in its effective use. The department is grateful for Claire’s success in maintaining such a reliable system that all can depend on.

Her dependability is matched only by her accuracy. Never has she sent the wrong letter to an applicant; all decisions are delivered in a timely way, and all information requests are carefully reviewed to ensure the development of correct and comprehensive replies.

Claire began her service to the EECS Graduate Office back in 1965. She took a 10 year break in 1972 to raise her family and returned to MIT, to Civil Engineering where she was known for her ability to run a smooth and fiscally tight operation and where she assumed increasing responsibility before returning to the EECS graduate office in 1993. Since then the volume of applications she handles has increased by 1k, that’s 66%. She now supervises one support staff person plus temporary help during peak workloads.

According to her colleagues, words like resourceful, responsible, dependable, loyal, accurate, and reliable come to mind, but fail to express fully, Claire’s value to the EECS Graduate Office.

Claire, you are truly an unsung hero and a treasured part of the quiet core of EECS.

With appreciation for all you do, we present you with the SoE Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Ada Ziolkowski


Ada Ziolkowski reports to Professor Ram Sasisekharan in the Biological Engineering Division but she routinely and generously shares her expertise and her time with others, without being asked, and despite the rigorous demands of her position.

We are told that Ada anticipates, navigates and juggles countless people, commitments, and travel itineraries, all with a positive attitude and the utmost level of professionalism. People are continuously amazed by her memory of intricate work-related details. Thanks to her, important documents are submitted on time and critical information is presented to those who need it. She deals with the day to day functioning of Professor Ram Sasisekharan’s large research group of over 30 people and the various attendant academic and industrial collaborations. Ada is “extremely smart” and she “understands the science and the people behind the issues”. She anticipates potential problems and circumvents them by assuring clear communication and by triple checking that everyone has given a final “OK” before locking into a particular plan.

One faculty member writes, “Ada is an icon . . . a legend in Biological Engineering”, probably because she is actually able to keep up with Ram, who is among BE’s busiest and most high profile faculty members. We are told that those who know Ram well know that it is Ada who manages his time, his budget and his whereabouts on the planet. She is a wise group manager, loyal, and a team player.

Another faculty member writes that “one example of (Ada’s) many . . . talents is her truly exceptional skill at helping faculty members coordinate complex travel itineraries. While it is remarkable that she assures that all of (Ram’s) travel arrangements run smoothly, what is really exceptional is that she also voluntarily helps other faculty with their arrangements. . . . She regularly anticipates potential problems and makes sure communication is clear…”

One faculty member writes, “from all of my interactions with Ms. Ziolkowski, it is clear that she is one of the most intelligent people that I know (and this includes faculty members!). She has a mind like a steel trap, and her agility with time zones rivals even the most savvy of travelers.”

Ada is always agreeable, honest, hardworking and most of all, thoughtful in her work. What makes her exceptional is that she not only has amazing abilities, but she is also a kind and considerate person. She is warm and welcoming to all she meets.

Ada, we share the faculty’s gratitude and awe for you and your work. It is a pleasure to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Mary Hertema-Miller


It is a deep regard for the Institute, an abiding belief in MIT’s ability to achieve sustained excellence in every activity, and a passion for providing superior customer service that drives Mary Hertema-Miller to go the extra mile. For over 20 years she has consistently taken on new challenges and achieved results. Her MIT career began at the Alumni Association in 1980 where she served as a Senior Secretary. After a succession of increasingly responsible roles across campus, she served in the MIT Medical department from 1988 through 2003, joining the Professional Education Programs at the beginning of 2004. A colleague who has worked with Mary both in Medical and PEP notes that in both roles Mary cheerfully takes on many challenges to expand the programs and membership while searching tirelessly for ways to improve the level of service to the community.

Mary’s first challenges in the Professional Education Programs office included a complete reorganization of processes and procedures as well as oversight of the implementation of a new registration system to handle the 600+registrants in their 30-40 summer programs. During the implementation of the new registration system, the vendor was sold, reorganized, and re-staffed. At times Mary and her team understood the system functionality better than the vendor. In her ever resourceful style, she successfully negotiated additional services from them, based on the contributions she and her staff made to the system development. These efforts earned praise from the faculty. One faculty member wrote “I’ve presented this course over 40 times at MIT, and I have never had the high degree of administrative efficiencies demonstrated this year. All of you in the Professional Institute have my gratitude and congratulations on being so efficient .

After successfully revamping the administration of the Professional Institute, known to many of us as the Summer Session Program, Mary elected to undertake the development of new custom programs for PEP.

Her ambitious efforts culminated in two major new programs including the Midcareer Acceleration Program (MAP), a career reentry program for science and engineering professionals, as well as an IT certification program for Accenture, a major new program for PEP and MIT. An MIT faculty member working with Mary on the latter writes that “she has always been willing to go above and beyond her job responsibilities to be as supportive as possible. She is unfailingly attentive to details and finds ways to help leverage the time and effort of the faculty involved.” The Accenture project team leader adds the following: “Assuming a crucial liaison role between Accenture and MIT, Mary has been a critical organizing force and major contributor to the development and release of the Accenture Solutions Delivery Academy.”

Mary, you fulfill the role of MIT steward and ambassador in an exemplary manner. We are extraordinarily pleased to present you with this SoE IMA for Sustained Excellence.

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Vicky Murphy


Vicky Murphy is the Administrator in Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Parsons Lab.

One of Vicky’s faculty supervisors writes, “Vicky has been a steady shining light in all my years at MIT. I am sure that my research program would have been much less successful were it not for Vicky’s help in all aspects of my finances . . . . . . . I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her. (I probably would have died from worry!).”

We are told that Vicky does whatever it takes to make things work, regardless of whether or not they fall under her job description. “You can count on her 100%. . . . (Vicky) is a problem solver of the highest order.” High praise, indeed, from an engineer.

“Vicky brings a calm, wise, and balanced perspective to her sphere of influence.” Faculty and students often go to her for advice on the many challenges of their jobs and their lives in general. “She has a remarkable quality that draws respect and warmth from everyone she touches. . . . Her door is always open. . . . She brings humanity and integrity to everything she does.”

Another faculty member writes, “to put it in the vernacular, Vicky has saved my bacon on innumerable occasions with speed, aplomb and a generous attitude. When we get in a bind, Vicky is always there ready, willing and extraordinarily able to lend her wisdom, experience and deep knowledge of the mysteries of SAPweb, COEUS, EDACCA and other MIT administrative arcania. Vicky is constantly bailing faculty out (not of jail, I hope, with a remarkable team spirit, generosity and an excellent sense of humor.

Vicky’s “. . . only fault is being incredibly humble and self-effacing. . . . She never makes mistakes. She is a one-person OSP.”

A faculty member Vicky’s worked with for twenty years tells us that, “in all the time I have worked with her she has never missed a deadline . . . . She has never been uninformed when questioned about the status of an account . . . . She is inevitably organized and on top of things. . .”

And from yet another admirer, Vicky “has efficiently produced numerous budgets . . . interacting with collaborators spread all over the globe. She has monitored our accounts, finding and correcting innumerable mistakes, and she has . . . a great knack for seeing into the future so that I am forewarned of impending problems . . . . All of this wonderful resource management has been done with her wry sense of humor and willingness to literally walk the infinite mile. . . . It is not even a slight stretch to attribute a significant fraction of our research productivity over the years to the outstanding contributions of Vicky Murphy.”

Vicky performs her complex and sensitive job with extraordinary skill and sensitivity. Hours mean nothing to her in terms of getting the job done and providing the very best environment she can for both students and their advisors. . . . One faculty member comments that Vicky, “really does a remarkable job keeping the faculty wellorganized (faculty need a lot of help with that) and she does so with great skill and unfailing good humor.”

Thank you, Vicky. It is our great pleasure to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award.

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Nancy Martin


Nancy Martin’s primary role is event coordinator for the Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL), but we learn that her impact extends well beyond. She is the face of CTL, and industry partners seek her out when they arrive on campus. For Nancy Martin deals with faculty, students, and external executives with equal ease. Nancy is thought of as a “node” at the center of many relationships connecting others in social and work related efforts.

She is recognized as one of the best event planners at MIT. Not only do ILP partners attending CTL events regularly comment on how well run CTL events are, but the Director states that he is always impressed when he attends other events because CTL’s events are so much better organized and more successful (not that he’s biased). With all due respect, the Director has very high standards, (like most of our faculty), and he does not give praise like this lightly. We do believe that you are indeed one of the best event planners at MIT Nancy!

We have to share a couple of examples of how effective Nancy is in her primary role. The Director also stated that CTL ran the best event he has ever attended. This event was two and a half times the size of the usual CTL event and was held at a venue not normally used by CTL. The 200+ guests had to walk to lunch amid a snow storm. Nancy had numerous contingency plans in place (apparently including snow), and executed them as necessary, and quickly and efficiently. The result was a flawless event.

Another example was during a four day course. On the second day, there was a 3 day blackout at the Hotel@MIT. Amazingly, Nancy located a new venue, she somehow arranged for hotel checkout of attendees in the midst of no electricity, she arranged for transportation to the new venue, and made all the arrangements of A/V, food service, and materials, resulting in a big win for the Center and the course participants.

Nancy’s flexibility and can do attitude allow her to deliver successful solutions rather than succumb to a crisis mentality. In the midst of unexpected difficulties, long hours, and last minute changes, she is ever cheerful.

Viewed as the seasoned expert, Nancy orients new employees by setting very high standards. She is very clear with employees who will be supporting CTL events, for reluctant as they might be, they are often required to be on site by 6:30 in the morning to set up and required to stay on site until 8:00 in the evening to shut down. A CTL Program Director says “She serves as a good role model. She is dedicated, committed, flexible with both her time and her work load capacity, capable of multitasking under pressure, and she is positive with a can do attitude.” She is also fun to work with!

Another CTL Program Director says, and I quote, “Nancy is one of the most selfless and dedicated MIT employees I have had the pleasure to work with. She is also the most resourceful. She is able to accomplish the impossible and do it with a smile on her face and a positive attitude.”

Nancy your gift for problem solving under pressure, your remarkable event planning skills, your terrific team building skills and your wonderful interpersonal skills are an asset to MIT! We are so pleased to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Chris Resto


Chris Resto is the Executive Director, the nerve center, the heart and soul, of the School’s Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, otherwise known as UPOP. Launched in 2001, UPOP introduces undergraduates to engineering practice through coursework and internships.

As Executive Director, Chris is responsible for every aspect of the program including developing and implementing operational strategy, working with faculty teams from Engineering and Sloan on the educational component; managing the small, highly efficient program staff of two; recruiting and training MIT alumni and friends who serve as volunteers; interacting with employers to develop internships; engaging in fund raising for the program; and most importantly, interacting with and advising the students in the program, of which there are many.

By all accounts and measures, UPOP has been a tremendous success. Enrollment has increased steadily from 73 in ’01/’02 to 236 last year. Over a quarter of all MIT sophomores signed up for UPOP this year. Student formal feedback on the program overall has typically (about 80%) described it as “exhilarating” and nearly 100% would recommend it to other students. Over the past five years, 90% of the students have been placed in meaningful summer internships. And Chris has effectively helped create and build every facet and component of the program. He has set a golden standard of excellence and effectiveness that will be a benchmark for programs like this for years to come. One of Chris’s faculty nominators says of Chris that “he is exactly the kind of individual whose contributions make MIT world-class.”

Chris and his staff maintain an open door policy and receive several thousand visits a year, many from alumni and friends of the program, but mostly from students. Here is a small sampling of what the students have to say:

Chris has personally touched the lives of hundreds of students and is both directly and indirectly responsible for immeasurable gains in their lives both at MIT and beyond.

In the past five years, as (Chris) has quietly grown UPOP to be the largest internship at MIT, he has also become one of the most student-respected figures on campus. His office is like a train station, with students constantly stopping in . . . where students get last-minute coaching and encouragement. . . . It is literally so bustling that it’s hard to get work done, but somehow Chris and his staff have still managed to meet or exceed expectations . . . while never once, to my knowledge, turning a student away.

In his heart, it’s all about the students. He takes their calls on his mobile phone at 10pm on weeknights when they need advice. He meets with students on weekends when they’re swamped during the week.

He has gone a long way to replacing the (self)confidence in . . . students that the standard MIT grind seems to steal away. If you find people who have been more excellent for MIT than Chris . . . then, by all means, give them (an) award (too).

The testimonials go on and on, from one student after another for whom Chris has gone the extra mile.

Not only has Chris demonstrated exceptional professional ability and dedication in developing and nurturing this highly successful program, but his optimism; his kindness; his attentiveness; and his remarkable skill at bringing the right people together at the right moment have made an incredible difference in the lives of hundreds of students.

Chris, please accept this very well-deserved School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Victoria Palay


Victoria Palay is one who quietly and efficiently does her job without attracting much notice, but her quiet behind-the-scenes efforts have produced excellent results time and time again.

She has been Staff Assistant to the Co-Director of CSAIL for over 18 years and in the last six years has taken on a variety of responsibilities that have Laboratory-wide impact. These broad responsibilities are sponsor relations and marketing-related projects, as well as professional and social activities. Sponsor relations includes organizing workshops and visits both on campus and internationally. Marketing related projects include the CSAIL logo, folio and souvenirs. Professional and social activities include organizing the Dertouzos Distinguished Lecture Series, the annual faculty and staff retreat, student commencement celebrations, and welcoming receptions for incoming students. Serving a Laboratory of over 800, these events are not small scale.
All constituencies, including administrative staff, students, research staff, and faculty enjoy working with Vicky because she ensures that all gets done on time and without issues. We learn that everything she touches is a success. The Director writes that she accomplishes all of this with quiet competence, efficiency, perfection, and a pleasant demeanor.

My personal favorite characterization is from a project manager and Associate Director in CSAIL who describes Vicky as “a master at the gentle art of herding cats”. Such is her success in getting Lab Directors, faculty, staff, and students to do their necessary part to make for successful events. He goes on to say that he “came to rely on her dedication and professionalism as she took on much more than her share of responsibility for events both large and small.”

Vicky is described by nominators as unflappable in moments of crisis and possessing an ability to get things done with a minimum of fuss, and always with a smile. We suspect that there are many moments of crisis in the course of organizing and delivering several large scale events annually, and so we recognize that this is the highest praise.

In addition to taking care of the logistics overall, Vicky is ever sensitive to the individual needs of meeting participants. She apparently keeps a record of these needs and then independently provides for them in subsequent annual events. For example she remembers to arrange vegetarian meals for faculty and their families, she knows their food preferences and their food allergies, she arranges for successful car pools, as well as extra beds in hotel rooms for large families. One faculty member notes that on more than one occasion he has heard a P.I.’s wife say “we forgot to ask the hotel for an extra bed, but Vicky didn’t!”

In addition to managing all the lab-wide events, we read that Vicky is also instrumental in assisting individual faculty with organizing meetings for their projects, including invitations and logistics, and often with 50 plus participants. One such faculty member says “she has shown a level of competence in these endeavors that I have not seen in any other staff member I have ever worked with.” He marvels that this competence is accompanied by a wonderful and charming personality.

Vicky, your commitment and dedication to the Lab is exemplary. We are pleased to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Cheryl Charles


Since the IMA nomination process closed, Cheryl Charles has transferred out of the SoE to RLE, but we will not hold that against her, especially since we know our faculty and students will continue to benefit from her many contributions. Cheryl was not only the Fiscal Officer for EECS, the largest academic unit in the School, but a freshman advisor, and a steadfast source of support for students, especially those from her homeland of Trinidad.

As a freshman advisor to students with varying backgrounds, she went above and beyond to organize events that promoted a sense of community among them and to help them build on their common experience at MIT.

Cheryl is a supporter of the Black Women’s Alliance (BWA) which provides a forum for addressing the needs and concerns of black undergraduate women students and a supporter of the MIT Caribbean Club helping West Indian students maintain, and helping others develop an appreciation for, their identity, culture, and heritage, while away from their homeland. The MIT Caribbean Club students are ever grateful for her generous and comprehensive support of their first conference, Technology and Society. From chairing planning meetings to convincing the Prime Minister of Trinidad to attend, she was instrumental in their success.

Portrayed as a bundle of energy who puts her whole self into every endeavor with enthusiasm and grace, she is widely known as one who is committed to MIT students, especially those who are in need of mentoring and support. Colleagues know her as one who stops whatever she is doing to cheerfully offer explanations and helpful suggestions.

A student admirer remarks that Cheryl “is one who values the creativity and industriousness of MIT students and gives her all to help in the struggle to reach the goals we set for ourselves.” She has always been a source of good advice and kind words as well as a very nurturing figure to all who know her.

Another student admirer says that after learning that she was in her first semester at MIT, Cheryl saw her in the Infinite Corridor and generously provided 20 minutes of her time explaining how to be successful at MIT. The student further notes that she believes Cheryl contributes greatly to the success of many people at MIT.

That belief rings true in the nominations of several administrative colleagues. In her fiscal role, she was the liaison for EECS and other DLC’s serving EECS faculty. Administrators in other DLC’s are impressed with her responsiveness and ability to pay careful attention to detail while maintaining an appreciation for the big picture.

Both students and colleagues are amazed as Cheryl takes the time and makes the effort to follow up their progress. For example she keeps in touch with former freshman advisees and will follow up with colleagues to make sure her advice proved successful and to see if she can be of further assistance.

Cheryl is a model citizen and it is with much appreciation for her broad service to the Institute that we present her with an SoE Infinite Mile Award for Diversity and Community.

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George LaBonte


MIT faculty and students are the life blood of the Institute and the source of its greatness, so I was pleased to note that this year there seemed to be a marked increase in nominations from faculty and students. Our next Infinite Mile Award winner, George LaBonte, is a perfect case in point.

George is on vacation and so is not with us here today.
George is the manager of the Suresh laboratories.

One graduate student writes, “I have been fortunate to interact and work in several labs in my four years at MIT and can say that I have met few lab . . . managers with the level of dedication, knowledge and personal likeability that George possesses.  George is knowledgeable about virtually all aspects of getting research done at the Institute . . . and, more importantly, he makes himself approachable and available such that we may all perform our work to the best of our abilities.  The Suresh lab has undergone a radical change in research focus in the last few years, from traditional materials science to bioengineering and George has brilliantly handled the added responsibility of managing two labs across campus. . . . Furthermore, he has done all of this while entering the semi-retirement phase of his career . . . . George's commitment and personality are an example for all young researchers to follow.”

From another graduate student, we learn of “George's extraordinary commitment to his group, his outstanding adaptation faculties, his broad knowledge about most of the crucial technical resources (and) regulations pertaining to . . . research at the Institute . . . , his constant enthusiasm and optimism, his unfading patience and willingness to help.”

Another young member of the lab writes, “George's position has taken on unique difficulties in recent years with the diversity of work that has begun in our group and he has brilliantly handled the increased work load.   George has performed his job at MIT with a smile and a positive attitude every day.”

A new student in the lab writes, “I recently joined the Suresh lab and have already seen how valuable and committed George is to the lab.  He was very welcoming and took a great interest to ensure that I received appropriate safety training and had everything I needed to get adjusted to the lab.  He was always very positive when I needed anything and was knowledgeable to answer a wide variety of . . . questions and point me towards the resources that I needed.  He has helped to make the transition into the lab smooth and comfortable.”

This hardly sounds like someone in semi-retirement – only at MIT, I guess. An alumnus of the lab writes, “as a former member of the Suresh Group . . ., I had the privilege of working with George LaBonte for nearly five years.  During that time, and for many years before and since, George managed the laboratory with great rigor, efficiency, proficiency, and enthusiasm.  His ability to acquire and maintain equipment for a hugely diverse cross-section of programs continues to provide students the opportunity to produce world-class data across a number of disciplines.  George is considered the go-to resource for designing complex experiments, fixturing, and tooling, as well as integrating vendors, facilities, and the appropriate safety personnel for rapid turnaround between paper-concept and equipment installation.  He has remained extraordinarily dedicated to our group and to the department. . . .  For my entire tenure at MIT, George exhibited (daily) the type of positive attitude that most aspire to conjure on their best days."

George, it is with much gratitude that we present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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J. Braun


Our next award winner is J. Braun. Ms. Braun works in the headquarters of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. She is a newcomer to MIT, but she has already made her mark.

Last year, Ms. Braun “. . . moved into her current role and has risen to the challenge of supporting the new Department Head, a challenge . . .” we are told, “. . . that should not be under estimated.   Professor (Ned) Thomas is an extremely energetic person, and creates a flurry of activity that can be quite difficult to keep up with.” Ms. Braun has gone above and beyond in all aspects of her position during this time of tremendous change in DMSE. “She has shown great intelligence, using appropriate judgment in responding to all requests, compiling promotion cases, drafting emails and letters for Professor Thomas, offering to absorb tasks (that anyone else would) not have time to do, and agreeing to accept responsibility for anything asked of her. Ms. Braun is organized, responsive, dedicated, patient, tactful, caring, tolerant and cheerful. This is a combination of skills that few possess, but which is critical in performing in her current role.”

One of Ms. Braun’s colleagues writes that she is a binding force for the department. Actually she should be considered the ambassador for the department. Like so many others here, Ms. Braun’s job requires a lot of multi-tasking and she does it extremely well.

Professor Thomas, who is teaching right now, writes that “Ms. Braun quickly impressed (him) with her dedication, knowledge and can-do attitude.   She naturally seeks to learn and advance her understanding of the detailed workings of MIT.  She demonstrates excellent independence and judgment in exercising many decisions that greatly relieves (his) administrative burden. 

One of Ms. Braun’s many strengths is to easily communicate with both the faculty and the members of the support staff and she has not only helped headquarters run smoothly but has helped the efficiency of the overall headquarters operation. (Professor Thomas) found over time that (he could) give Ms. Braun more and more responsibilities as she has gained (his) confidence to handle all sorts of intricate matters concerning personnel, financial administration as well as academic issues. . . Ms. Braun is a wonderful assistant, combining high intelligence, dedication, a strong work ethic, good initiative, excellent common sense and a deft ability to understand how to handle the very diverse set of people in DMSE and to interface well with a host of MIT and outside organizations. . . . Ms. Braun is a huge asset to DMSE and to MIT and is most highly deserving of an Infinite Mile Award.”

We concur! Thank you, J. Braun. It is with great pleasure that we present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award.

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Closing Comments

This ends the formal demonstration of appreciation for todays SoE Infinite Mile Award winners. Know that these citations, along with photos of award recipients and the Dean, will be available on the SoE website very soon. The address is noted in your program.

We want to thank each of you for sharing in the success of these extraordinary contributors to MIT’s excellence and we invite you all to join us for some refreshments that promise to be delicious and more importantly to stay on and extend your own informal but heartfelt congratulations to our award recipients.

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