Professor of Computer Science Seth Teller
One of the saddest events of the early summer was the unexpected death at 50 of our colleague Prof. Seth Teller of EECS, leaving behind his wife Rachel and their two young daughters. Seth’s scientific, technological, and educational accomplishments are well described in his obituary. Seth had a history of productive engagement with student and faculty concerns, and had served as Secretary of the Faculty. He was also engaged with pressing social problems and had recently returned from a team trying to help solve the pressing radiation problems at the heavily damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. Here we recognize his contribution to defending the integrity of the MIT campus and its role in the life of the MIT community, and his accomplishments as a leader in preserving the integrity of his East Cambridge residential community.
Over the past few years, Seth was a key member of the group pressing for full faculty input, influence, and representation, in the administration decisions as to the redevelopment of the East Campus.
He was one of the senior faculty who proposed and promoted the motion establishing a Campus Planning Committee as a standing committee of the faculty, voted unanimously at the May faculty meeting.
In Cambridge, Seth was a founder of the Neighborhood Association of East Cambridge. This group has led the effort to correct the egregious errors they believed were inherent in the construction of the Middlesex County Courthouse and jail tower on public land in the midst of residential East Cambridge. Seth was a leader in the ongoing effort to respect community concerns and return the land to its original public use, or replace it with a more desirable commercial building.
His close colleague Michael Hawley captures some of his character: “Many remarked on the twinkle in Seth’s eyes – the spark. It usually accompanied a knowing grin that quickly morphed into a smile and a laugh. The friends and neighbors who worked with him in trying to make East Cambridge a better neighborhood felt many things in that spark – warmth, passion, moral decency, dedication to better futures, tenacity in problem solving, courage in the face of tough odds – and the love of finding a worthwhile problem. Seth found joy in bringing people together to tackle challenges that, like the Middlesex Courthouse problem he hoped to remedy, would need the best efforts of many. He fought hard for better futures, and always with that bright, optimistic twinkle.”
Seth’s social concern and civic responsibility provides on ongoing model for MIT faculty, students, and staff.
Gifts in Teller's memory may be made to the Seth Teller Memorial Fund which will support research, education, and other innovations that advance and improve assistive technology for people with a range of disabilities.