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Alumni Letters

Letters from our readers.
September 8, 2006

Brass Rat Replacements
Thanks for the article in the July/August 2006 issue about brass rats selling on eBay for up to $1,200. I was on the ring committee in 1999 and know two things that might help alums trying to replace a brass rat. First, some manufacturers provide insurance on the rings. We decided to provide that service to the Class of ‘99: if you lose your ring, you can buy a one-time replacement from Jostens for $50. I was very grateful we had done this, because shortly after I graduated, I left my ring on the counter in a hospital bathroom, and when I went back, it was gone.

The second thing is that many ring manufacturers keep their molds for years–Jostens is one of them. I am pretty confident a Class of ‘99 alum can have a ring made from the original mold. There might be an increased cost for a one-off manufacturing run, but it would probably still be cheaper than eBay, and you get your actual class ring. (Is there a business opportunity here?) I realize that manufacturers come and go, and some of the older alums may not have this option, but it is worth checking out if you can identify the original ring manufacturer. For many class years, ring vendor information is available on the Alumni Association’s website at Otherwise, locating someone who was on the ring committee might be the best way to find out who the manufacturer was.
Jen Lykens ‘99
Portland, ME

I lost my brass rat while in the navy. I went back to MIT for grad school and was going to get a grad rat but instead contacted the company that made the ring for my undergrad year, 1989. They told me that they keep the molds for 50 years. I had signed my original ring; the new one has my name inscribed using a handwriting font.
Michael S. Quintana ‘89, SM ‘98, SM ‘98
Richland, WA

Faculty Leaders
A celebratory dinner to be held on September 30 in Walker Memorial and two references in the July/August issue are related. On page M13, Professor Earl Miller is mentioned in “Reverse-Engineering the Brain,” and on page M56, in the photo caption, Professor Ed Bertschinger is also mentioned. They are both recipients of the Class of 1956 Career Development Professorship.

Obviously, the provost’s office, where these decisions are made, is doing a good job in selecting future faculty leaders.
Walter Frey ‘56
Auburndale, MA

Having Our Say
Reading your story about grad students’ having a say in Institute matters (“How MIT Decides,” MIT News, June 2005) brings to mind one earlier series of events in which grad students did have some impact on administrative decisions.

During the early ’80s, one room of the physics department (6-218, if I recall correctly), located in the mezzanine between the regular floors, was the home of between 15 and 20 physics graduate students who had not yet joined research groups or did not have their own office space. The place was teeming with people 24 hours a day, which generated camaraderie and a very positive atmosphere. Imagine our shock when we heard that the room was going to be seized and transformed into a computer lab/study room. After long discussions, we decided to send letters of protest to the department and also to the Institute leadership, pointing out the grave problems that we students would face if we had to leave the room. To our pleasant surprise, it was decided that instead of being simply evicted, we would be assigned three rooms in Building 20, where we duly moved.

Interestingly enough, after we spent several years there, we learned that these new rooms were going to be reassigned to a different, grander project; some big biology-related grant had been awarded, and the old barracks were to be rebuilt as new offices and laboratories. This time, however, our own department contacted us, pointing out how impressed the Institute had been by our earlier efforts to keep 6-218. The hint was clear, and those of us who were still there from the earlier times teamed up with the younger students to start another letter-writing campaign, which resulted in our being given space in three offices in Buildings 6 and 8. While in both cases we had to move after all, at least we were listened to, and some reasonable compensation was given, making us students feel amazingly empowered.
Christian Schön, SM ‘82, PhD ‘88
Bonn, Germany

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