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Longtime Ashdown House housemasters Vernon and Beth Ingram will discover when they read this story that a giant asteroid drifting between Mars and Jupiter has been named after them.
Tom Burbine (Ph.D. 2000), who lived at Ashdown for six years, quietly started the process of naming the asteroid (which is 3-6 km in diameter) after the Ingrams a year ago and managed to keep it a secret until now.
"Vernon was always impressed that I had an asteroid named after me [designated 5159 Burbine]--so I thought it would be a nice honor for him and Beth," said Burbine, a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Schelte "Bobby" Bus (Ph.D. 1999) discovered the Ingram asteroid in 1981 at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Bus gave Burbine naming privileges as a personal favor. The only stipulation was that the persons honored had to be "deserving," Burbine recalled.
"The Ingrams were a perfect fit. They spent so much of their time making Ashdown House a special place by hosting numerous events such as coffee hours and house dinners. I loved living there, and most of my close friends today are people I met in Ashdown," Burbine said.
The name became official on June 24 when this citation was published in the "Minor Planet Circular."
"(6285) Ingram--During their 16-year tenure as housemasters of Ashdown House, a graduate dorm at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Vernon (b.1924) and Elizabeth (b.1940) Ingram interacted with thousands of students. Vernon, who discovered the genetic defect for sickle cell anemia, is a professor of biology at MIT."
Ashdown House "is special because there are so many social events there, which makes it easy to meet people. It also has so many international students that you get to interact with people from many different cultures," Burbine said. " I believe that without the Ingrams, Ashdown House would not be the vibrant community it is today." The Ingrams, housemasters at Ashdown for 16 years, retired in June 2001.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 17, 2002.