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Alumni Letters

Letters from our readers.
March 12, 2007

A Spark of Genius
It was great to read the article on Amy Smith ‘84, SM ‘95, ME ‘95 (“The Pragmatist,” January/February 2007). I was one of her undergraduate roommates, and we remain friends today.

I first met Amy as a pledge at Delta Psi (No. 6 Club) in 1980. A self-described “klutz,” Amy decided she wanted to play volleyball seriously and joined the team. She practiced all spring, and the next fall she was named to the varsity team, which went to the final four our senior year.

Amy would frequently go home with friends in tow, and I soon felt like a member of her family. I remember one year going out to Lexington for Patriots’ Day to watch the reënactment. Later that day, as we were recovering from our 5:00 a.m. ordeal, we were rudely awakened by Amy, who demanded that we join her to watch Sesame Street. We were in for a treat: the Sesame Street version of “Let It Be” (“Letter B, letter B …”).

One summer, Amy worked at a pig farm and came back to school as a vegetarian. I became an ingredient-reading expert, since she would not eat anything cooked with lard. We were pretty careful about which cookie and ice cream mix we should eat.

Twenty years ago, I would have said that Amy was a great friend and adopted sister, a lot of fun, but someone with strange ideas. Today, I have learned that it is the slightly different thinkers who have the ability to make the world a better place for all of us. I am thrilled to see that Technology Review recognizes the beautiful spark of genius in Amy.
Karen Caswelch ‘84
Indianapolis, IN

Shirley Chisholm’s Charge
I really enjoyed the article on our classmate Amy Smith and the quote from Father Daniel Berrigan, which reminded me of Shirley Chisholm’s speech at our graduation. Although not many of us dedicate as much of our lives to making a difference as Amy does, hopefully we all engage ourselves in some manner on a regular basis to do what Amy does and what Shirley Chisholm encouraged us to do.
Scott Causbie ‘84, SM ‘85
Edmonds, WA

The Startup of Simmons
Some dorms have books written about them after students have called them home for decades. Simmons, architectural oddity that it is, has had newspaper stories, exhibits, and now Technology Review (“Sponge Life,” January/February 2007) examine it. I was pleased that Susan Nasr’s article showcased the people of Simmons rather than the building, which is only a complement to the stories of people, learning, and play that go on within its 921 concrete panels.

As a sophomore when the dorm opened, I got to be a part of the first of many rounds of residents to make Simmons Hall closer to what we wanted it to be. Being involved in the “startup” of a dorm–with opportunities to go on shopping sprees for board games and communal kitchen supplies as well as to help form the practices that continue to structure its operations–was great fun.

I know that each year’s community will make the dorm closer to what students want it to be. I also know I can use Simmons as a conversation starter with any architect, Bostonian, or construction manager for years to come, seeing as how, against all odds, none of the rooms jutting out over air has collapsed after four and a half years.
Katherine Leskin ‘05
Arlington, VA

Remembering Bill Dickson ‘56
I was so sad to read in the last issue (Class Notes, January/February 2007) that Bill Dickson is no longer with us. He was a lovely man in every regard, as your obituary clearly shows. But I would like to add that he was also a great help to both faculty and students at MIT. Between 1983 and 1990, while I was teaching building economics in the architecture department, Bill opened the Institute’s books for our research. This he did without any fuss. We could get anything we wished from him–and he made sure everyone working for him would help us, too. Given that building costs and prices are not easily obtained in the corporate world, this was of great value to us; some of my students’ master’s theses would have been impos­sible without him. I hope Bill’s tradition is still alive and well at MIT’s Physical Plant Department.

Learning about his death also touched something else in me. His humanity and decency came through as soon as I saw his picture in Class Notes. His eyes did the trick; we connected through the tiny picture. I feel that I have been remiss in not telling him all this while he was still among us. Alas! Now I have my work cut out for me: I must make sure that the few people as humane and decent as Bill are remembered while they can still enjoy my effusive accolades.
Ranko Bon, PhD ‘75
Motovun, Istria, Croatia

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