2008 SoE Awards Ceremony and Recipients
IMA for Excellence
IMA for Sustained Excellence
IMA for Diversity and Community
April 30, 2008
WELCOME BY DEAN Subra Suresh:
Hello. I am Subra Suresh, Dean of Engineering, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the School’s Eighth Annual Infinite Mile Awards Ceremony.
There are currently 114 past recipients of School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award winners. Today another 8 people, with a combined total of 146 years of MIT experience, will receive individual Infinite Mile Awards. We will also present team awards this year to 15 people in 3 teams. The names of all of our award winners 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.) Thank you. I am very pleased that you have been able to join us today.
This year’s selection committee was chaired by Eileen Ng-Ghavidel, the School’s assistant dean for finance and personnel. Eileen, who is a 2002 SoE Infinite Mile Award winner herself, joined the Dean’s Office last July, quite coincidentally the same day I became Dean. At this time, I would like to acknowledge and thank the other members of this year’s selection committee, all of whom are past Infinite Mile Award recipients. They are Aza Gevorkian from the ASO, Alina Haverty from Chemical Engineering, Victoria Palay from CSAIL and Leslie Regan from MechE.
I would also like to recognize and thank the members of the Dean’s Team who helped organized today’s event: they are Stephen DeSaulniers, Mary Anne Gowen, Lisa Magnano-Bleheen, Maria Marangiello, Brian Tavares and Sandy Tenorio (applause).
We are all especially grateful to those of you who took the time to nominate your coworkers and colleagues. Your thoughtful contributions make this celebration possible.
Finally, my thanks to all of you for taking the time to share in this joyful and inspirational event. I hope you will be able to stay for conversation and refreshments after the awards have been presented.
My predecessor, Tom Magnanti, liked to say that MIT’s School of Engineering is the best school of engineering in the galaxy, and I heartily agree. I also do not doubt for a moment that we have the best staff in the galaxy as well!
WELCOME BY ASSISTANT DEAN DONNA SAVICKI
Hello, for those of you who are new to the School and to this awards ceremony, I am Donna Savicki, assistant dean for administration. Welcome.
Eileen and I will alternate reading brief citations about each of our award winners. They will remain seated until we finish reading, then will come up to receive their awards from Subra. We ask that you hold your applause until we have finished reading each citation.
I will begin with…
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Diane Rose is an administrative assistant in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering where she supports several faculty members. In addition to her regular duties, she is sometimes asked to take on special projects for the Department. Most recently, she assumed a major part of the burden in assembling reports from all members of the Department in connection with the ABET accreditation. Bless you, Diane and thank you.
As we are all only too well aware, MIT faculty members tend to take on more than, well, more than most people would. They are extraordinarily productive and of course this would not be MIT if the work was not also of the highest quality. Keeping up can be a real challenge for the rest of us mere mortals. Recently, one of Diane’s faculty supervisors took on a double teaching load. This, naturally, had a significant impact on Diane’s work load. But she met the challenge effectively, cheerfully, and with grace. With equal grace, Diane’s faculty supervisor dispelled the old saying that MIT is a “no praise zone” when he wrote, and I quote, “many of my own academic responsibilities are self-imposed. However, I do not know how I could handle all that I am called upon to do on behalf of the department without Diane’s support and experience and ability to organize her responsibilities.”
He continues, “in terms of meeting deadlines, quality of her work, serving as an interface with students and visitors and knowing my expectations and priorities, Diane consistently exceeds, anticipates and meets all of my requirements and – if that were not enough, often at her own initiative (she) makes useful and cogent suggestions to better accomplish an objective. On all accounts, she is an outstanding candidate for the School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award. The selection committee and we agree.
Congratulations, Diane. It is a pleasure for us to present you today with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
Our first team award goes to David Rodriguera, Erica Nofi, Rachel Russell, Laura Zaganjori, Richard Brickman, and Karuna Mohindra of the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity (LMP). This team brings a total of 56 years of combined service to the Institute.
Henry David Thoreau once said: “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” In recent years, this group has certainly been busy. They have worked together to establish a new LMP seminar series, organized numerous Manufacturing Summits, hosted several international conferences, redesigned and launched a new LMP website, oversee three construction projects, all while building a sense of community spirit in the Lab. These accomplishments are the result of the team’s successful collaborative efforts.
Nominators describe this team as intelligent, extraordinarily efficient, competent, approachable, and extremely knowledgeable. All of their work is accomplished with initiative and thoroughness. Since 2005, the Lab has experienced significant growth with research volume more than doubling to just under five and a half million dollars. The team works together to ensure proposal submissions are timely and funds are managed appropriately.
In reading the nominations, it was inspirational but not surprising to learn that mentoring, training, and willingness to help one another is at the core of the LMP team’s success. This group has come together to enhance the quality of life and educational experience for all of its members. Faculty, staff and students are appreciative of their responsiveness, independence, and professionalism. They accomplish their work with a wonderful sense of humor, rigor, and excellence. This group truly embodies the spirit of teamwork.
David, Erica, Rachel, Laura, Richard, and Karuna, please accept these School of Engineering Infinite Mile Awards for Excellence as tokens of our deep respect and gratitude.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Our next award winner is Clare Egan. Clare is the academic administrator for the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.
Clare is the person the NSE faculty and students rely on for information on the full range of academic policies and procedures. We are told that she is always available and that she nails every question. One letter writer says, “I doubt if you would find a single student or faculty member who would not extol her virtues based on their many direct interactions with her.”
Another letter writer, speaking on behalf of himself and six of his faculty colleagues tells us that Clare has served “with exceptional dedication and distinction . . . She has provided exemplary service, uninterrupted over a span of 40 years. . . . Clare Egan single-handedly has kept the Academic Office running efficiently and smoothly. . . . To say that her contributions, year in and year out, are critical to the success and wellbeing of the students, as well as the department, is not an exaggeration. . . . Although we are the ones signing this nomination, we believe our sentiments are widely shared by all the faculty and students.”
Yet another letter writer says, “Clare has been a tower of strength... Her knowledge of the department is encyclopedic, her skill in juggling the many – and not infrequently conflicting (!) – demands of faculty and students is uncanny, and her steely but always diplomatic ability to keep moving the ball forward makes all the difference . . . . For many years Clare’s contributions to the department have been extraordinary, and they remain so today.”
I have dealt with Clare on many occasions myself, and it is a pleasure and an honor for me to second the sentiments of the Nuclear Science and Engineering faculty. Congratulations, Clare, on this well deserved School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
In his role as manager of the undergraduate teaching laboratory in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, David Bono was hired to work closely with architects and engineers to design and develop the Lab. The Lab opened in 2003. His responsibilities range from design and construction of laboratory equipment to providing one-on-one instruction on design of experiments, ordering supplies, and helping faculty coordinate various lab groups performing numerous experiments.
Since he joined MIT in April 2000, David has continued to go above and beyond. He has contributed to the success of the Department’s new undergraduate curriculum. The new curriculum which has a much larger lab component requires constant reconfiguring of lab space, development of new lab modules, and managing complex scheduling of lab experiments and projects. During any given day of the academic year, this Lab averages 80 students running experiments or working on class projects and David works tirelessly to set up experiments and ensure smooth operations in the Lab.
Nominators describe David as, and I quote, “having wizard-like electronic skills and expertise” and “the soul and heart of the undergraduate teaching laboratory.” A faculty member writes “David’s a gifted inventor with a deep practical knowledge of electronic and mechanical systems. He has a track record of consistently going out of his way to help students, staff and faculty, often working day and night to design and build things on short notice.”
Over and over, letter writers describe how David has gone out of his way to obtain used parts to build new equipment or uses ingenious ways to get high quality electronic components at low prices. David has actively worked to keep the lab exciting by designing the equipment for almost every experiment. As one letter writer says, David is a unique treasure within the Department and Institute.
David your dedication and inspiration to students is exceptional. We all extend our appreciation for your hard work in reinvigorating DMSE’s undergraduate laboratory. Reading the many nominations submitted on your behalf was both a humbling and an inspiring experience, and it is our pleasure and privilege for us to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
With 75 faculty members, over 200 employees, 400 undergraduate students, and almost 450 graduate students, Mechanical Engineering is the second largest academic unit in the School of Engineering. This being MIT, that translates into a lot of paperwork, which is handled with efficiency, dedication and good humor by the winners of our second team award.
Behind the scenes in Mechanical Engineering, Maureen DeCourcey, Joan Hutchins, Caroline Johnston and Marie Pommet works seamlessly as a team initiating purchase orders, processing invoices, monitoring general and fund accounts, approving expenditures, assisting support staff with their course accounts and handling payrolls. They process hundreds of appointments each year and assist international students and visitors with paperwork. They issue keys, and perhaps most importantly, parking stickers.
Maureen, Joan, Caroline and Marie are generous with their time and their expertise. One letter writer comments, “Their office is very busy but they all do whatever is necessary to help the faculty, staff and students…. They make the Mechanical Engineering Department a great place to work. Whenever I have a question . . . I know I can ask anyone on this team and they will get me an answer.” Letter writers refer to Maureen, Joan, Caroline and Marie as “lifesavers,” “true unsung heroes” and “top notch.” They are always busy, yet always ready to help one another and anyone who walks into the office or who calls, including yours truly. I too have had first-hand experience with their remarkable helpfulness during my years in the Dean’s Office.
I cannot let this opportunity pass without recognizing Maureen DeCourcey. Maureen has seniority among the 23 people receiving School of Engineering Infinite Mile awards today. It seems she must have skipped grades 1 through 12 and came to MIT right out of kindergarten, in 1960. 48 years – remarkable! Congratulations Maureen.
Ladies, in thanks for all that you do, it is our great pleasure to present you with this Infinite Mile Award for team excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Sue Patterson is the Research Program Specialist in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS). Sue came to campus after working a number of years at Lincoln Lab. It was fortunate for the School and LIDS to be able to lure her to the Cambridge campus where she has made valuable contributions over the last 4 years.
One of Sue’s nominators writes, “One of the first things that comes to mind about Sue is that she is always incredibly helpful. No matter what it is she is working on whether she is trying to get out a proposal, editing journals, or coordinating security clearances – she is always willing to step in and answer a question, if she doesn’t know the answer, she will find some one who has it or find a way to get it or direct you to a place where you can find it. One of the reasons faculty, students, or staff stop into Headquarters is because she is so helpful.
I have personally had the pleasure of working closely with Sue for several years and can attest to her superior customer service and quiet dedication to the Lab. She is always willing to take on challenges to assist in the smooth operation of headquarters. Her willingness to help is unfailing and she is one of the most reliable, loyal, and kind-hearted people that I know. Her dedication to the Lab is impressive and it is not uncommon to find Sue working into the evenings when many members of the Lab have already gone home for the day.
Another nominator writes “she is responsible for managing several million dollars of sponsored research contracts and during the last year she has had to work very closely with OSP to solve some complex issues.” She is unselfish in helping others and she often shares in their workload during peak times. She has shown an exemplary amount of team spirit and good will.
Sue thank you for your willingness to go the extra mile. The School of Engineering is very fortunate to have some one like you who is hardworking and exceptional. You have been a quiet core of LIDS headquarters and it has not gone unnoticed. It is a pleasure to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY
Our next award is a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Diversity and Community. The recipient is Amy Francis of the Department of Biological Engineering.
One letter writer tells us that “Amy believes in Community (with a capital C)…. from the moment she joined MIT (just short of eight years ago) she has made an effort to participate in the MIT community at every level possible.” It starts locally, with the five research groups Amy supports and into which she welcomes every new student and postdoc, their spouses and their children as though they were all members of one extended family. Another letter writer states, that in their group “there has always been a strong undercurrent of belonging and collegiality” for which Amy has been a major catalyst, “making sure that new members are made to feel secure and welcome and that members who leave MIT do not leave the group.
At the Department level, Amy is BE’s co-coordinator for Daffodil Days, a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society. One of Amy’s ideas was to give contributors the option of purchasing special teddy bears, which Amy herself delivered to children at Dana Farber.
Spreading her nurturing wings beyond the Department, Amy is an active member of the Institute’s Working Group on Support Staff Issues. She has served as co-chair of the Working Group’s membership committee and currently she is co-chair of the Working Group’s List Maintenance team.
Amy is an organizer and event planner par excellence. From lab birthday celebrations to the Institute-wide annual luncheon for support staff, she’s done it all and she brings her own very special touch to each task. In the words of one letter writer, “(Amy) is close to unique in her ability to project warmth, calmness, caring, competence and confidence.”
Amy, it is indeed a pleasure to present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Diversity and Community.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE
Chris has been with the Institute for 13 years and since 2005 she has been an integral member of the System Design and Management program. Unfortunately, Chris will not be able to join us today because of a death in her family. We will schedule another time to give her her award and have her picture taken with the Dean.
Although Chris can not be here today, we wanted to share with you the compelling reasons for which the committee and nominators felt that she deserved this Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.
Chris was hired in SDM to coordinate admissions. However because of her detail oriented, organized, creative approach to work, her responsibilities were expanded to include the company billing system. We are told that Chris has put order into chaos in what has historically been a very complicated process for SDM. She has met this challenge with the same thoroughness and focus on detail that she brings to all her work. This is critical for SDM, a program that depends on company sponsorship and partnership.
Chris’ friendly and patient personality and customer service attitude has eased the transition for many foreign students. She is very popular among the students and several have written to let us know that she frequently comes to the rescue whether it be managing the external billing arrangements or serving as the liaison, interpreter, and/or champion for SDM students to the myriad of Institute offices like the registrar’s, medical, and bursar’s offices.
Another letter writer says and I quote, “Chris Bates has become the heart of the SDM staff….she has re-vamped the admissions process into a fully on-line system, from initial contact at information evenings though faculty reviews, scoring, and admissions decisions and notifications. Chris is a self-starting, knowledgeable and service oriented staff member who reaches across program and department boundaries to provide assistance in many work and student life related initiatives. Chris is a natural leader in any effort to improve the way we go about the business of education, and often inspires other employees to join in.”
Congratulations Chris – today we recognize you for your superb efforts in SDM and your commitment to MIT’s goals.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Our next award winner is Terese Chung of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Teri is the administrative assistant in Professor Harry Tuller’s research group. She also supports Professor Tuller in his roles as the faculty instructor for several large undergraduate laboratories with a fairly complex organization of faculty, staff, TAs and students, as well as in his roles as head of the Department’s Graduate Admissions Committee and head of one of DMSE’s Academic Programs.
We are told that Teri is always resourceful and willing to help, that she is enthusiastic about doing her job well, and that her enthusiasm and her professionalism are contagious. Teri routinely meets and exceeds all the customary requirements for her position and then seeks out other ways to help. She takes responsibility and she takes initiative. For example, she has done a great job reorganizing the office: removing clutter, creating order and generally making the environment more pleasant, more welcoming and more productive.
A prime example of Teri’s resourcefulness and initiative is the following: Teri knew that Professor Tuller’s research group was interested in outreach to high school students in connection with an NSF grant, but that they were having difficulty with their initial contact. Teri contacted her own high school, which happened to be local, and arranged a visit to campus for about 10 high school students to hear about the group’s research. The visit was a great success and we understand that Teri prepared the report to NSF.
Last summer, on her own initiative, Teri took a 5-day grant writing training program at Harvard Medical School. As a result she is having an enormous impact on her group’s ability to submit proposals for funding: facilitating collaborative efforts, improving the quality of proposals and reducing stress levels.
Teri, your versatility, your energy and your resourcefulness are inspiring. You are a wonderful role model and the Department and the School are indeed lucky to have you. It is our pleasure to present you with this Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
This next team’s work impacts many areas across the campus. With over 1600 international scholars coming to MIT each year, the International Scholars Office (ISO) team of Penny Rosser, Amanda Doran, Vivian Ruiz, Fumiko Futai, and Kali Drake is responsible for assisting faculty and staff in bringing international scholars to campus for research and/or academic activities. The ISO advises on immigration matters, issues visa documents, and provides information and guidance on a wide range of issues such as employment of spouses, health insurance, taxes, language courses, and general information about MIT and the Cambridge/Boston area.
In the current environment of constantly changing immigration regulations and complex rules pertaining to visa processing, it is impressive that the Institute has such a knowledgeable and customer service oriented team to assist in navigating all of these issues successfully.
Communications is one of this team’s strongest points. Team ISO interfaces with approximately 69 MIT laboratories and frequently hosts information sessions to keep administrators informed and trained. These sessions provide invaluable information and enable the many staff members who are the first point of contacts to be able to work efficiently and provide critical information to their international constituencies.
From a scholar’s perspective, team ISO is friendly and helpful. The team works with scholars from 78 different countries and finds ways to help with the transition to the American culture. An example of this is the newcomer’s almanac, a newsletter which provides a myriad of information the United States from financial vocabulary, to explanations of American sports such as baseball to etiquette of RSVPing for children’s birthday parties.
A nominator writes: “we are truly fortunate to have colleagues of team ISO’s caliber, a truly talented, remarkably resourceful and dedicated team…” The School of Engineering and Institute are fortunate to have such a spectacular resource and devoted team meeting the community’s needs.
With appreciation for all that you do, we present you Penny, Amanda, Vivian, Fumiko, and Kali with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Team award.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Our next award winner is Stephen Wetzel. Steve is the manager of facilities in the Department of Chemical Engineering, a job that covers everything from maintaining the Department’s undergraduate teaching labs to compliance with evolving environmental health and safety regulations (no small task in Chemical Engineering), to coordinating and overseeing major building renovations for new faculty hires. Steve is extremely knowledgeable about Building 66 and has been remarkably successful in keeping the Department’s “tired old building . . . operational despite its exceptionally high density of research activity and the corresponding burden on its 30-year old infrastructure.”
Steve’s extensive knowledge, his creativity, good judgment and common sense are amplified by his wonderful way with people, especially when it comes to complicated renovation projects. Steve provides advice on feasibility and scope to project planners, negotiates detailed plans and their revisions with faculty and student users, anticipates the impact of renovations on concurrent activities in order to minimize disruptions, and communicates personally with people in Facilities, IS&T, contractors and others to ensure that everyone is in the loop.
One letter writer conveyed a story that is emblematic of Steve. One day a man and a woman came into headquarters. They asked if there was anyone who could tell them about the Department 80 years ago. Apparently the man’s father, whom the man had never gotten to know, had graduated from the Department in the 20’s. The man wanted to learn more about his father, and as he said “walk down the same hallways” that his father once did. Headquarters called Steve. Now Steve will stand up in just a moment and you will see for yourself that he has no personal knowledge of events 80 years ago. Nonetheless, Steve appeared in Headquarters moments later with a book for the couple about the Department that Steve said might even have a picture of the man’s father. Steve spoke with the couple and even gave them a tour of Chemical Engineering, even going so far as to take them to Building 4, where Chemical Engineering had its roots and where it was located when the man’s father was a student here.
I have had the pleasure of working with Steve and I was absolutely delighted to learn that he had been chosen to receive an Infinite Mile Award. Steve exemplifies all of the wonderful qualities we have come to expect in our IMA winners, all those qualities you have heard us describe over and over again today – ability, intelligence, initiative, enthusiasm, dedication and an overriding desire to serve our remarkable students and faculty. Steve it is indeed a pleasure to present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.