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The 2006 MacVicar Fellows share a passion for education that has earned all three the respect of students and faculty alike.
This year's fellows, announced by Provost L. Rafael Reif during a luncheon held Friday, March 3, are Professor Leslie Norford of architecture; Associate Professor Dennis Freeman of electrical engineering and computer science; and Professor Samuel Bowring of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences.
The fellowships, given to outstanding teachers, were established in 1992 to honor the life and contributions of Margaret MacVicar (S.B. 1964, Sc.D.), MIT's first dean for undergraduate education and founder of UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program). The MacVicar Faculty Fellows program provides an annual scholar's allowance to assist each fellow in developing ways to enrich the undergraduate learning experience. Fellows serve 10-year terms.
A member of MacVicar's family, as well as Corporation members and previously named fellows, attended Friday's luncheon at the Faculty Club, which featured a welcome from Corporation Chair Dana Mead and remarks from President Susan Hockfield and Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel Hastings, in addition to Reif's introductions.
Although Bowring was not able to attend the luncheon, Professor Emeritus John Southard of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences accepted in his stead. Among other things, Bowring was honored for the way he made difficult concepts accessible to students.
Reif read the remarks of several of Bowring's colleagues and students: "His lectures were by far the most lively and engaging lectures I have had during my MIT experience," one of his students wrote.
"During one class, he decided that lecturing was not the best way to teach us the current topic, so he took us on a walking tour of the campus, looking at and explaining the rock and mineral composition of each building," said another of Bowring's students.
Of Freeman, one colleague said simply: "He is the best teacher I know." He was praised for his hands-on approach to education as well as his accessibility.
"I have met with him numerous times to discuss graduate school applications, research philosophies, goal setting, and what to look for in seeking a research advisor and Ph.D. thesis," one student wrote. "Simply put, Prof. Freeman places the success and well-being of his students as his utmost priority."
Norford said he was honored to be named a MacVicar Fellow. "When asked to characterize this place, I often say that the energy level here, the buzz associated with the hard work and the rewards of learning, is higher here than at any place I have been," he said. "MIT undergrads have enormous skills, enthusiasm and energy. To support them is no chore. They motivate faculty to do the best possible job in developing and delivering lectures and labs, in supervising their research and in advising them."
The respect runs in both directions, said Norford's students. "I truly admire Prof. Norford's dedication to teaching and advising the undergraduate students. Working with him and being one of his students are two of the greatest things that happened to me at MIT," wrote one student.
MacVicar Day ended with a 90-minute showcase of dozens of students' work in "UROP and Beyond," an open fair in the Stata Center Student Street. MacVicar created UROP, which cultivates research partnerships between undergraduates and faculty, in 1969.
In his remarks, Hastings spoke of the UROP's ongoing importance. An advisor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he recalled one student's story. "I asked him what had been really great during his time at MIT. He told me that the thing that really made a difference was the UROP he did in the Engineering System Division AgeLab."
Throughout his years at MIT, the student worked to bring technological advances to bear in helping senior citizens to live as productively as possible, said Hastings.
"This had really been a good experience for him and he wanted to find a job working in that same kind of field," Hastings said. "This is one of the legacies of Margaret MacVicar."