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Alumni Letters

Letters from our readers.
June 18, 2007

Pei the Humanist
I’d like to express my delight at the recent article regarding I. M. Pei’s work, life, and philosophy of design (“I’m Still Here,” May/June 2007). Pei’s approach to life entails far more than the dedication and imagination needed to produce bold architecture. Importantly, Gigi Marino’s article captures the optimism and openness that make Pei one of our great living humanists as well.
Sloan Kulper ‘03
Boston, MA

Pei’s Farsighted Urbanism
I was glad to see the recent article on ­I. M. Pei. His buildings at MIT are distinguished contributions to the campus, and after several decades they look better than ever. Not only that, they form coherent and beautiful outdoor spaces–and set up the possibility for more.

Fumihiko Maki’s new building for the Media Laboratory, which will be adjacent to Pei’s Wiesner Building, will complete a quadrangle and form an elegantly urbane edge to Ames Street. Pei’s Landau Building presciently set up the possibility of a new quad­rangle to its north, Frank Gehry’s Stata complex has continued the theme, and Harry Ellenzweig’s project for the Center for Cancer Research has the potential to finish the job by defining the edge of Main Street and completing the enclosure of the space. Pei’s interventions provide a lesson in farsighted urbanism–one that I hope MIT will take to heart as it continues to build out the campus.
William J. Mitchell
Alexander Dreyfoos Professor of
Architecture and Media Arts and

Another Dinghy Story
I read with interest the article about the Tech Dinghy (“All in the Same Boat,” May/June 2007). This gave me the opportunity to reminisce and to record a bit of history, as it was I who sparked interest in dinghy sailing at MIT.

Let me give you the story: In 1932, I came to MIT as a freshman, working summers to earn money for tuition and expenses. The first year, I was favored with a scholarship that paid my tuition. In my last year at MIT, I had a car. The situation gave me the thought that come spring and summer, I could trailer my dinghy–which I’d sailed for several summers on the Long Island Sound–to Cambridge. Why not see how many at Tech would join me in sailing the Charles?

Early in 1936 I posted a bunch of notices calling for a meeting of all who would be interested in forming a sailing group. It was really satisfying when we got 15 attendees. Lots of talk, with a plan for more meetings.

At this point I was accepted in the Chemical Engineering Practice School, with my first assignment at the steel mill in Buffalo, NY. So off I went with several of my student friends to Buffalo in my car–and didn’t return to Cambridge until just before graduation. When I got back, lo and behold, the group that I had started had gotten bigger, and plans for sailing on the Charles had materialized. Somewhere along the line the Campbell Soup Company had donated six dinghies to start the fleet. But time was short; graduation was the important activity. Fortunately–since those were Depression days–my professor, Harold Weber, recommended me for a job at Universal Oil Products in Chicago. So off I went to a research lab at Riverside, IL. To wind up my story, I never got to sail a dinghy on the Charles River, but I did land a challenging job at UOP, where I worked many years as vice president.

I taught sailing to my five sons, and we have sailed and raced in small boats on Lake Michigan and in chartered boats on the Caribbean and all over the world. Now I sail every chance I get.
Pete Weinert ‘36
Haslett, MI

Investigating Racism in Promotion
The denial of tenure is always a great disappointment to a faculty member (“Professor Protests Tenure Decision,” May/June 2007). To investigate charges of racism, MIT can follow the example of many other universities by appointing an affirmative-action officer. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) can provide helpful suggestions for examining and assessing effects that race may have in the promotion and tenure process.
Theodore J. Sheskin ‘62
Lakewood, OH

Remembering Manson Benedict
Thank you for writing about the life of Dr. Manson Benedict (Course XXII News, March/April 2007). I appreciate reading about not only his many accomplishments and honors but also his personal life and family.
Jack Freer ‘58
Chagrin Falls, OH

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