Tech Reunions

Hi everyone! Whew – it has been quite an academically busy summer for me, but I won’t bore you with those details. DSC01515Instead I thought you’d enjoy a recap of my third Fourth of July at MIT.

On the eve of Independance Day, I made cupcakes in my friend’s kitchen in Bexley. (I decided to personalize some of the cupcakes (exhibit to your right) for a BBQ we had the next day.) Artistic genius? I think yes.

I spent some of the early evening on the 4th at the Baker Alumni Reunion BBQ to fulfill my duties as a student ambassador/bakerite/ MIT student who knows she will be an alum all too soon, too!

I had originally planned to watch the fireworks from the top of DKE but at the last minute, some friends (one with a cousin on the Harvard sailing team…) coerced me into power walking DSC01543over to the Harvard Boathouse to watch the explosions from the dock. How could I say no? [On the way over, I had to instate my own policy that if a person’s blanket was on the ground, it was okay if I stepped on it. ] We made it with two minutes to spare, wobbled our way onto the dock, and took a seat just feet away from the barge itself. ———>DSC01551


What was 7/4 like when you were at MIT? Have you been back since and has it changed?





                                                                                                                             Rachel ’09, Jon ’11, and me!

Brad Bates '59, in his father's red jacket. Photo: Justin Knight

Brad Bates ’59, in his father's red jacket. Photo: Justin Knight

He wasn’t always easy to spot among the masses at this year’s Tech Reunions, but if you looked closely there were a few details on Brad Bates’s 50th reunion red jacket that distinguished him from the rest. For one thing, the rich cardinal color was slightly faded. There were two, not one, MIT pocket crests. And the buttons looked light and silvery instead of gold-plated. Bates’s jacket was from 1974; it had originally belonged to his father.

“It’s a link to the past, and it’s honoring my father,” Brad said several days after Tech Reunions.  “It meant a lot to me to be there at the same milestone that [my father] had gotten to at one point. It was a thrill.”

Brad’s father, Philip K. Bates ′24, PhD ′29, pursued biology and life science while at MIT, and went on to serve as president of the Club of Southern California. He was honored with a Bronze Beaver Award in 1980. The younger Bates diverged from his father academically—studying electrical engineering and computer science—but followed his father’s commitment to leadership and service to the Institute. Brad served as president of the Club of Southeast Michigan and, like his father, earned his own Bronze Beaver in 1991.

Today Brad lives in Michigan with his wife, Lydia, whose father, incidentally, is also an MIT grad.

Class of '59

The class of ′59 gave reunion attendees a lot to smile about last week. They marched with dignity—and some humor—into Killian Court on Friday. They danced their hearts out after Saturday’s class banquet. They even rallied at Reunion Row on Sunday, coming in second in the first heat. But one alum takes the cake for his ability to awe and inspire his fellow classmates—Oliver Seikel, lawyer and cycling enthusiast, biked 794 miles from his home in Cleveland, Ohio all the way to the steps of 77 Mass. Ave.


Affectionately dubbed the “fittest of the fiftieth,” Seikel maintained a blog for the duration of his trip and his local  TV station posted a video on his adventure.

(And in case you’re wondering, yes, even a bike trip can be infused with distinctly MIT-ish charm: “The wind made it possible to build up kinetic energy on the downhill, and then convert it back to potential energy on the uphill, with some entropic loss of course,” Seikel wrote in his blog after three days of riding.)

For a taste of the 18th annual Tech Challenge Games, watch the two-minute video below. Special thanks to videographer Russell Boulais and photographer Justin Knight. ‘

In a highly informal survey during Tech Reunions last weekend, Association Director of Communications Maggy Bruzelius asked alumni what three words they associate with MIT today. You’ll find them below.

Excellence, prestige, diversity: Wilfred Graves ’94

Opens many doors: Aarti Shukla ’94

The future, work, brains: Jim Monk ’64, SM ’71

Amazing, proud, world significant: Malcolm Green ’50, SM ’51

A great place: John Matthews ’44, SM ’47

Engineering, management, entrepreneurship: Michael Krasner ’74, SM ’75, EE ’75, PhD ’79

Energy, biology, engineering: Jean Hammond SM ’86

Making a difference, stepping stone: Bonny Kellermann ’72

Innovative, challenging, inspirational: Paula Elster ’74

Bigger, better, not cheaper; no longer battleship grey: Jon Tepper ’74, SM ’75

Impressive, encouraging, wow: Jean Mozolic ’74, SM ’76

More women, sterile, eek! (cost): Tom Howard ’74

Cleaner, brighter, cooler: Seth Powsner ’74

What three words would you use to describe MIT today?

Please click the comment button to share your words.

The red seat honoring Williams (left) and scuff marks on the Monster (right).

The red seat honoring Williams (left) and scuff marks on the Monster (right).

On Friday afternoon, I sat with 50+ MIT alums on the monster. The Green Monster, to be exact. It was the first shift of the Fenway tours at Tech Reunions ′09, and it promised to be memorable—from the black and white scuff marks where home runs smack the 11.3 meter Green Monster wall to the sparkling red seat in the right field bleachers, a seat meant to commemorate the longest measurable home run ever hit inside the park. (Props to Ted Williams for the 1946 502-foot blast.)

Here are a few highlights that struck the alums and myself as particularly noteworthy:

  • Manual scoreboard: The park still uses a manual scoreboard that was installed in 1934. Evidently, three guys sit behind the board in a little room that’s only large enough to squat in. There’s no running water, bathrooms, heat or AC. Scoreboard workers have to wear ear plugs throughout the game because if a ball hits the board, the sound is deafening. According to our tour guide, there’s a 7000-person wait list for the job.
  • Beating the Yankees on day 1:  The first game the Sox played was against the New York Highlanders (later named the Yankees) in 1912. They won 7-6 in 11 innings before 27,000 fans.
  • National landmark: Fenway will turn 100 years old in 2012, at which point it may become a national landmark. Other facets of the park are already considered historic treasures, including a number of original oak seats in the grandstands and, of course, the manual scoreboard.
  • Yawkeys’ mark: The initials of Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey, longtime Red Sox owners, are recorded in Morse code down the side of the scoreboard.

Marilyn Shilkoff '54 and her husband perched in Green Monster seats.


A Fenway Park tour guide addresses the group.

General Petraeus congratulations his son, Stephen '09, at the June 6 ROTC commissioning ceremony.

General Petraeus congratulates his son, Stephen '09, at the ROTC commissioning ceremony, as President Susan Hockfield applauds. Photo: Darren McCollester.

At MIT’s ROTC commissioning June 5, General David Petraeus was beaming like a proud father. And he was. As he presided over the commissioning of 12 members of the Class of 2009, he included in that oath his son, Stephen. The new graduate, a political science major, appears to be following his dad’s footsteps not only into the army, but into a larger understanding of world issues. The senior Petraeus holds a PhD in international relations from Princeton.

This commissioning event also kicked off a new affinity group, the MIT Military Alumni/ae Association. The MITMAA aims to engage alumni with military experience or interests. Is that you? Learn more about the MITMAA online.

Pawan Sinha SM '92, PhD '95combined humanitarian and research interests to help treat blindness in his native country, India. Photo: Justin Knight.

Pawan Sinha SM ’92, PhD ’95 combines human- itarian and research interests to help treat blindness in his native country, India. Photo: Justin Knight.

Wonder about the latest research on how the brain works? You can tune in now to the June 6 Web stream of Technology Day, the intellectual centerpiece of Tech Reunions 2009. After remarks by President Susan Hockfield, three MIT faculty share their research from 9 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. EDT.

How the Brain Invents the Mind—Rebecca Saxe PhD ’03, Cognitive Neuroscience

When you look at other people, the features visible on the outside are only a small part of what you perceive. Many people are much more interested in seeing, or inferring, what’s going on inside: other people’s thoughts, beliefs and desires. How does the brain—an electrical and biological machine—construct abstract thoughts?

Learning to See—Pawan Sinha ’92, PhD ’95, Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Humans see a world that makes sense. Parsing the complex visual array into meaningful objects comes so naturally that people often do not think of how amazing an accomplishment this is. Indeed, no computer system even comes close to this level of proficiency. How do people acquire these impressive visual skills?

Computers with Commonsense—Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

About 50 years ago, students in artificial intelligence laboratories began to write programs exhibiting useful and impressive expert behavior, but from the perspective of commonsense, all computers remain as stupid as stones. Can researchers ever understand what happened in human evolution well enough to build a truly intelligent machine?

The Mass. Ave. bridge got a little prettier this afternoon after the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of the night Lambda Chi Alpha pledges used the body of Oliver Smoot ’62 to measure the bridge. Official ceremonies and hoopla took place October 4, 2008, and now the dedication of the plaque, a gift from the Class of 1962, officially seals the anniversary celebrations. Jeff Lobo ’83, a Lambda Chi Alpha brother while at MIT, served as master of ceremonies for the dozens of onlookers while Chaplain to the Institute Bob Randolph blessed the plaque. Learn more about Smoot’s legacy.

Wait for it...wait for it...

Wait for it...wait for it...

Ta da! The plaque was unveiled by Class of 1962 President Mead Wyman and Director of FSILG Alumni Relations Bob Ferrara '67.

Ta da!

Oliver Smoot was not able to attend the dedication, although he did attend festivities back in October, but his Class President Mead Wyman ’62 both presented and accepted the plaque. At the ceremony, former Lambda Chi Alpha President Brandon Suarez ’09 talked about the twice-yearly tradition of repainting the Smoot marks and the first time he participated in the two-hour endeavor at two in the morning. As is tradition, the painters return to the fraternity house, gather all the pots and pans they can find, and make as much noise as possible until all the brothers are awake and gathered. The noise continues until someone guesses what colors the hash marks have been repainted.

Made of space-age titanium metal, the plaque was designed by Ilan Moyer ’08 and Melissa Rothstein and machined by Moyer with advice by Ken Stone ’72, director of the MIT Hobby Shop. It's installed on the Cambridge side of the bridge and replaces a cast-iron plaque, also a gift of the Class of 1962, that was installed in 1987.

Made of space-age titanium metal, the plaque was designed by Ilan Moyer ’08 and Melissa Rothstein and machined by Moyer with advice by Ken Stone ’72, director of the MIT Hobby Shop.

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Lambda Chi Alpha brothers from the Smoot days (who deny any participation in the bridge stunt) are joined by Peter Miller ’62 (third from left), who helped draw the original hash marks, and Tom O'Connor ’60 (far right), the pledgemaster at the time who devised the idea of marking off the bridge in pledge lengths.

See a photo of Peter Miller ’62 in action on the bridge in 1958. He’s the one wielding a piece of chalk near Smoot’s head.

Smoot plaque unveiling

The plaque is installed on the Cambridge side of the bridge and replaces a cast-iron plaque, also a gift from the Class of 1962, that was installed in 1987.