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The New England Council, the nation's oldest regional business group, last week honored MIT, US Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall and Gillette Co. CEO Alfred M. Zeien as "New Englanders of the Year" for their contributions to the economy and community.
Each year, the Council's board selects one person from the private sector and one from the public sector to receive these awards, thereby underscoring the emphasis the organization places on public/private partnerships to spur economic growth. The awards were presented Thursday at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel during a Council dinner attended by about 500 business, government and academic leaders.
It was the first time that an institution has been honored in this manner since the New England Council was founded in 1925 by the region's governors and business executives. A seven-minute video profile of the Institute, prepared for the occasion by MIT, received a strong round of applause.
Don Reed, NYNEX president and group executive and chairman of the Council's annual dinner, said MIT has played a critical role in creating jobs and companies in New England. "While MIT is well known as one of the world's leading academic institutions, [producing] students who go on to become international leaders in their fields, it is also much more. It is one of the world's top research institutions. And MIT is a major contributor to the area economy, responsible for the founding of over 600 companies in the region. As a result, MIT's impact on this region has been and likely will continue to be monumental."
Alexander V. d'Arbeloff, founder and chairman/CEO of Teradyne who is an MIT alumnus and Corporation member, accepted the award on behalf of MIT and Corporation Chairman Paul E. Gray, who also attended the ceremony.
Mr. d'Arbeloff introduced a group of the younger generation of MIT entrepreneurs who were guests of MIT. Sitting with Dr. Gray were Krisztina Holly (SB '89, SM) of Arlington and Michael Cassidy (SB '85, SM) of Cambridge, co-founders of Stylus Innovation, which was sold this year to Artisoft Inc. for $12.8 million. Cassidy is now general manager of Artisoft in Cambridge. Other MIT alumni/ae at the table included Cassidy's wife, Caroline Wang (SB '86), a manager at Johnson & Johnson in Raynham; Beth Marcus (SB '79, SM), owner of Marcus Enterprises Ltd. in Nashua, NH; Matt Haggerty (SB '83, SM), founder of Project Genesis of Cambridge, and his wife, Carol; Mark Miles (SB '85), founder of Etalon Inc. of Boston; and Joseph G. Hadzima Jr. (SB '73, SM), executive vice president of Quantum Energy Technology in Cambridge.
In announcing the selections, Council Chairman Ira Jackson, senior vice president of BankBoston, said, "Secretary Widnall made her mark on the New England economy in a profound and lasting manner by recommending to the President that Hanscom Air Force Base-and its 30,000 jobs and $3.2 billion impact on the region's economy-be kept open. It is a testament to her judgment, and the universal respect accorded the Secretary, that her recommendation was accepted. And it was spectacular news for New England."
Before becoming Secretary of the Air Force, Dr. Widnall was a professor of aeronautics and astronautics for 28 years at MIT. At the time of her appointment, she was associate provost of MIT.
Mr. Jackson praised the CEO of Gillette for his strong emphasis on international business. "Al Zeien has been a hero and an inspiration to an entire generation of business leaders who have marveled at his ability to lead the company to unprecedented growth, capped off most recently by Gillette's proposed merger with Duracell. Al Zeien has demonstrated the value and importance of operating aggressively in international markets as an effective means of guiding and building a world-class company."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 2, 1996.