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Massachusetts State Police Colonel/Superintendent John DiFava, a tough cop with a sensitive streak, has been named chief of the MIT Campus Police Department, effective Oct.15.
He was chosen from a long list of exceptionally qualified candidates after an extensive search that began in March when Chief Anne P. Glavin stepped down after 13 years to become MIT's director of public safety. Capt. John Driscoll has been the acting chief.
"I'm leaving at the top of my game," said DiFava, who joined the state police in 1974 at age 22 and was promoted through the ranks, ultimately to colonel/superintendent in 1999. "The State Police has been my family, but it was time to leave. MIT is a great opportunity. I've had only one job in my life. I expect to have only two."
In announcing DiFava's appointment, Stephen D. Immerman, director of enterprise services in the office of Executive Vice President John R. Curry, said: "I am delighted beyond description to welcome John DiFava to the MIT community. I am especially grateful for the excellent work of the search committee. They listened to the needs and concerns of this community and recommended a list of truly remarkable candidates. Among those candidates John DiFava's combination of experience, record of progressive leadership, and focus on service and community were clear indicators of his 'fit' for this important role at MIT."
Curry said, "One of the most important things we do is attract and hire the very best people we can to carry forward the work of the Institute. John DiFava is exemplary. He is a servant-leader with a substantial record of strong leadership balanced with extraordinary sensitivity for the needs of the community he serves."
The 14-member search committee included two undergraduates, one graduate student, a faculty member, a police sergeant and two deans. It was chaired by Dean for Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert.
"I'm pleased that this search has resulted in such an outstanding appointment," Colbert said. "We are bringing to MIT a superb professional whose proven leadership skills and human qualities will propel our policing services into a new era. I look forward with great enthusiasm to working with him, and I am confident that students, faculty and staff will agree."
DiFava, who has been the colonel/superin-tendent of the State Police since April 1999, commands a force of 2,341 plus 393 civilians, the largest police agency in New England. Its annual budget is $240 million.
DiFava said he looks forward to working in a more intimate environment. His most fulfilling assignments prior to becoming the colonel/superintendent, he said, were heading smaller units where he could get to know each trooper personally and have a direct impact upon his performance. "I've missed that," he said. "It's impossible to know 2,400 names on the State Police. I will know 59 names at MIT." DiFava anticipates working directly with the MIT community, getting to know students, faculty, staff and administrators. "It's a different kind of law enforcement, more of a customer focus," he said. "It's a great challenge."
His duties as superintendent include empowering members of campus law enforcement agencies as Special State Police officers. In fulfilling this responsibility, he has met regularly with campus police chiefs across the state to discuss training and patrol responsibilities. "During his tenure as superintendent, he broke ground in the areas of fiscal management, racial and gender diversity, personnel management, union relations, and professional responsibility," said Immerman. "He is known as a visionary and a problem-solver who has boundless energy and excellent human relations skills."
DiFava joined the State Police as a trooper after he received the B.A. in sociology from Long Island University in 1973. Before assuming his present position, he held the ranks of lieutenant colonel in command of the Division of Field Services in 1998-99 and major in 1996-98 as the commander of Troop H, the department's largest and most urban division. Earlier in his State Police career, he served as the commanding officer of the Marine Unit, the station commander at Logan Airport, and the team leader of the special reaction team and the underwater recovery unit. He is a skilled scuba diver and underwater photographer.
DiFava, who also has a master's degree in education from Boston University, has been the State Police liaison to the gay and lesbian community and the department representative to the Massachusetts Office of Emergency Services. He has taught at Western New England College and the State Police Academy and was a guest instructor for the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council.
DiFava, a native of Hyde Park, and his wife, Karen, have two small children and live in Wilmington.
In addition to Dean Colbert, members of the search committee were Jamie Lewis Keith, managing director for environmental programs and risk management; Larry Benedict, dean for student life; Doug Pfeiffer, assistant dean for finance and administration in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Sgt. Cheryl Vossmer, Campus Police; Margaret Ross, staff psychiatrist/medical liaison to health education in the Medical Department; Eric Grimson, associate director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab and the Bernard Gordon Professor of Medical Engineering; Gayle Gallagher, director of conference services in the Events and Information Center; Debra Gratto, director of staffing and employee relations in Human Resources; David Achenbach, manager of labor relations and policy in Human Resources; Ebraheem Fontaine, a senior in mechanical engineering; Josiah Seale, a junior in electrical engineering and computer science; and LaRuth McAfee, a graduate student in chemical engineering. Human Relations Officer Lianne Shields provided staff support for the committee.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 12, 2001.