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AVC

Alumni Volunteer Connection

A Tribute to William J. Hecht ‘61

After 23 years, William J. Hecht ‘61 retired as executive vice president and CEO of the Alumni Association on June 30, 2003. He will stay at MIT part time for two years as CEO emeritus of the Association, taking on special assignments.

Alumni Volunteer Connection invited alumni who had served as presidents of the Association during Hecht’s tenure to speak about his contributions to the Association and to MIT. 

Paula Olsiewski, CM ‘79, incoming president, said, “Bill is really the father of the Alumni Association. Over the past 23 years, he has nurtured the Association as it grew into a vibrant organization. He mentored many staff and alumni, myself included. I am delighted that he has agreed to stay on part time to continue his important role as MIT’s goodwill ambassador.”

“Association presidents came and went, but always there was Bill, knowing everyone, knowing what was possible, knowing what was not, and knowing that there are some things whippersnappers just have to learn all over again,” observed Bob Metcalfe ‘68 (president 19971998). “At the core, and an inspiration to us all, was Bill’s deep affection for MIT,” he added.

Karen Arenson ‘72 (president 19951996) reflected on her relationship with Hecht. “Whenever I returned to the Institute, I always headed for Bill’s office, overlooking the courtyard. He would lean back in his creaky chair and talk about new appointments in the MIT administration, the efforts to streamline management, the task force on improving undergraduate education, and anything else that was going on. Bill has always been one of the people who made returning to Cambridge feel like coming home.”

Bob Muh ‘59 (president 19921993) said, “It has been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with Bill for nearly 23 years. The Association is today a model for many universities to emulate and much of this is due to Bill’s leadership. I was delighted to learn that he would be available on an advisory basis to the Association for the next few years.”

“During my tour of duty as president of the Association, I traveled with Bill to Europe and Asia,” recalled Brian Hughes ‘77 (president 19992000). “It was wonderful to see, in both these trips, the strength and warmth of the relationships Bill had built up over the years, relationships that made me welcome, and clearly benefited MIT. While I may have been president of the Association, there was no doubt in my mind who was head of state.”

According to Paddy Wade ‘45 (president 19881989), “Bill is a wonderful advocate for MIT. It is always interesting and enlightening to interact with him. When I was president of the Alumni Association, I was able to travel with Bill, which was not only a privilege, but also great fun.”

Bob Mann ‘50 (president 19831984) reflected, “Bill was a very good friend and confidant. Although we both hold MIT in high regard, as in all organizations it has its problems, and Bill was prepared to discuss these confidentially. I’ve been at MIT since February 1947, and president of my class from 1949 to 2000, as well as on just about every Association committee, board, etc. I came to know well all the Association executive vice presidents from 1950 on. Bill was the best of the lot.”

“Bill Hecht is an institution,” quipped DuWayne Peterson ‘55 (president 19961997). “We will never again have someone with his dedication and true love for alumni and MIT and who would devote over 20 years of his life to this task. He is truly beloved by all.”

Hecht, who came to MIT as a freshman in 1957 and has devoted much of his professional life to serving the Institute, was awarded the Bronze Beaver in 1999 for his distinguished service to MIT and the Association.

Visiting the World with MIT

Alumni connections are being made throughout the world through MIT Alumni Travel Program trips and with the generous help of local alumni. In March, 12 MIT travelers explored the lush islands of Hawaii under the leadership of MIT professor of geology emeritus Bill Brace ‘46. While traveling on the island of Hawaii, the group was hosted by Harrison Klein ‘71 at his spectacular home, and they were welcomed by other alumni who reside on the Big Island. Of the gathering, Bill Brace comments, “A wonderful lunch was spread out in Harrison Klein’s octagonal house, constructed of rare Hawaiian woods, on the edge of a rough coastline made of jagged lava. Several other people with MIT affiliation were there.” Klein adds, “The luncheon was one of the most memorable MIT alumni experiences I have ever had.”

The MIT group also participated in a private tour of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, led by Paul Okubo, PhD ‘86. “We spent the morning at his laboratory in the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, where we heard presentations from Paul and three of his colleagues,” Brace adds. “Later we went out to see the active volcano and walked over fresh lava in the dark to view the bright-red active flow.”

In April, 15 MIT travelers visited South Africa and traveled via the Rovos Rail train. Connections were made with alumni in Cape Town and Pretoria, South Africa, with the help of alumnus Ian Craig, SM ‘89. Four alumni joined the MIT travelers in Cape Town for an MIT gathering, and 10 local alumni joined the travelers in Pretoria. What a terrific opportunity for alumni to meet one another, and for the travelers to learn more about current events in South Africa.

Closer to home, a group of MIT travelers cruising from Jacksonville, FL, to Charleston, SC, on the Nantucket Clipper were greeted by George Clifford ‘48 on Jekyll Island. Clifford led a tour of the island, joined by his wife Ginny. As part of their tour, Joe Iannicelli ‘51, PhD ‘55, welcomed the MIT group into his home for a visit.

The Travel Program appreciates the generous hospitality of all these local alumni who volunteer their time and effort hosting the MIT travelers during their journeys. These special visits add much to the MIT programs and provide a terrific exchange for all.

For more information on the MIT Alumni Travel Program, please call 800-992-6749 or visit the Web site at web.mit.edu/alum/explore/travel/.

Alumni Activities Calendar

Fewer major events are being held at MIT during the summer, but alumni are still getting together. Many will embark on Alumni Travel Programs, from a cruise along Canada’s Labrador coast to exploring Costa Rica’s rain forests and beaches. Also, many clubs are holding activities, be they social outings or newly-admitted-student events. For the club in your area, visit web.mit.edu/alum/connect/clubs. Alumni volunteers, mark your calendars for September 1920, 2003. Annually, the Alumni Association sponsors the Alumni Leadership Conference in Cambridge. Volunteers will enjoy workshops, the annual awards luncheon, and valuable panel discussions, as well as Institute updates and other events with fellow volunteers from around the world. Invitations will be sent to volunteers in July. Online registration and updated conference schedules will also be available online this summer at web.mit.edu/alum/giveback/alc. For a compilation of alumni event notices received from clubs and groups, visit web.mit.edu/alum/explore/calendar.

July 9-23Alumni Travel Program, Canadian Arctic Expedition
July11-19Alumni Travel Program, Majestic Cliffs and Hidden Coves of Cornwall, England: A Walking Tour
July 16-24Alumni Travel Family Program, Ireland
July 18-Aug. 2Alumni Travel Program, the Baltic Sea and
Norwegian Fjords
July 26-Aug. 4Alumni Travel Family Program, Costa Rica
July 27MIT Club of Washington, DC, newly-admitted-student picnic
Aug. 11-19Alumni Campus Abroad, Scandinavia
Aug. 22-30Alumni Travel Program, Great Lakes
Sept. 3First day of fall classes
Sept. 19-20Alumni Leadership Conference

New Team Supports Athletics

“I loved a lot of things about MIT, but I believe my participation in the athletics program is what made my experience truly phenomenal,” says Allison Barman ‘98.

Many alumni share Allison’s enthusiasm for their athletic experiences at MIT. Roughly a quarter of undergraduates are intercollegiate athletes, while virtually the entire undergraduate and graduate population participates in intramurals, takes physical education classes, or uses recreational facilities.

Despite these high levels of participation, the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) has historically had a low level of visibility among alumni. A new volunteer group, the Friends of DAPER, is hoping to change that. Allison Barman is one of the alumni volunteers working with this newly formed group.

The group, cochaired by Michael Schoen ‘87 and Don Shobrys ‘75, hopes to increase alumni involvement with athletics at MIT, enhance the visibility of DAPER, and assist with raising funds.

There are 26 volunteers in the group, representing classes from 1944 to 2002. About 40 percent of the volunteers are women. The group includes participants from 24 varsity and club sports and several former intramural-sport managers.

The group’s initial efforts will focus on alumni communications and fund-raising. Potential initiatives include increasing the number of alumni events, developing brochures and mailing materials, and assisting with Web sites and e-mail newsletters. The intent is to share experiences across programs as well as develop new ideas.

Another important objective of the group is to increase the person-to-person contact in fund-raising efforts by supplementing Institute professional resource-development staff with alumni volunteers. “One-on-one alumni volunteers who help in engaging other alumni to make major gifts is invaluable,” says Shobrys. “It’s a real icebreaker, both for getting people to think about a potential gift and for giving them a sense of the joy they can derive from their involvement.”

According to Schoen, “Fund-raising is critical because as a department at MIT, DAPER is responsible for generating a portion of the funds needed to cover its costs. DAPER has fewer options for external funding than the academic departments, so the role of alumni is increasingly important.”

The Friends of DAPER are looking to involve other alumni in these efforts. Anyone who is interested in becoming involved should contact Schoen at mschoen@alum.mit.edu or Shobrys at dshobrys@alum.mit.edu.

Alumni Association launches New and Improved Web site

The MIT Alumni Association has relaunched its Web site. The new site features a new address, alum.mit.edu, and offers an array of new links, menus, and services to put more of the Institute at the fingertips of alumni.

“The Alumni Web site has experienced exponential growth over the past three years,” says Maggy Bruzelius, director of alumni network services (ANS), who oversaw the redesign. “The depth and range of our content had grown to staggering proportions, and it was time to streamline.” Bruzelius says the new site is the result of months of hard work by the ANS team and other key staff from the Alumni Association.

Alum.mit.edu will still feature the Infinite Connection, the alumni-only online suite of services that includes the very popular Email for Life, which serves over 50,000 alumni. Other prominent Infinite Connection services are the online alumni directory, access to the Institute Career Assistance Network (ICAN), an expanded edition of Class Notes, and the alum-to-alum e-mail list. The Infinite Connection is a free service that only MIT alumni can use.

One of the new features on alum.mit.edu is adjustable font size, allowing end users to adjust type size to their personal preference. In addition, the site has been reorganized, and many more quick links have been added to make the user experience cleaner and more efficient.

Alumni will still recognize some popular items on the site, such as openDOOR, the award-winning Web magazine, and “What Matters,” the lively alumni opinion column that appears monthly.

“We’re delighted that alumni have been using our site as a major gateway to the Institute,” says Bruzelius, “as that’s our goal, to bring the Institute to alumni no matter where they are in the world. This new site design will only enhance the online experience for alumni and make staying connected to MIT that much easier and enjoyable.”

Rafael Bras ‘72-A Citizen of MIT

More than 35 percent of MIT faculty members are alumni. Very few, however, have been involved with the Alumni Association as volunteers, as has Rafael Bras ‘72, SM ‘74, ScD ‘75. When asked why he volunteers for MIT, he expresses surprise that it could even be a question. “My involvement as department head, calling in phonathons, serving on alumni boards, working with class reunion committees is all part of a continuum,” Bras says. “I am a part of the Institute, and the Institute is a part of me. All of this is of one piece-it is just part of what I do.” In the fall of 2003, Bras will begin a two-year term as chair of the MIT faculty-more evidence that when MIT asks for his service, he steps up.

Bras currently is serving the first year of a two-year term as a vice president on the Alumni Association Board of Directors. In 2001 he completed a three-year term as a member of the Alumni Fund Board. In 1997, Bras was part of the class team that broke a nine-year-old record for the 25th-reunion gift.

In the spring of 2001, when he was chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Bras led a group of volunteers and staff who brought together department alumni in celebration of a beloved MIT couple, Don ‘50 and Martha Harleman HM. The event was recognized by the Association when the Harlemans were presented a Presidential Citation.

“People love the Harlemans, and this was an opportunity to bring alumni together,” Bras said. “It just became a big party that was a lot of fun, and we raised enough money to name a chair for them. We capped the whole thing off with a gala dinner that was truly outstanding.”

In conjunction with that event, Bras helped organize a nationwide conference on the future of civil and environmental engineering attended by 250 people, many of whom were MIT alumni. “Those in attendance included 80 department heads across the nation,” he added. “We looked at future exciting areas and problems in the profession. I think we influenced lots of academics, and I see evidence showing up even today.”

During spring break last March, Bras and other faculty members accompanied 45 freshmen to the Amazon. These students were part of a two-semester interdisciplinary course called Terrascope. When students arrived in Brazil, Bras had arranged for them to meet one of his former students, Vicente Nogueira, CE ‘78, who is now dean of engineering at the University of Manaus Amazonas. Nogueira, who had served the state of Amazonas as secretary for the environment and later as secretary of education, gave a lecture to the MIT students. They met with other alumni working for Raytheon in Amazonas.

Bras has had a remarkable career reflecting a continuing series of significant accomplishments. He is the recipient of the 1998 Clarke Prize for excellence in water research, awarded by the National Water Research Institute of Fountain Valley, CA. Bras is the first hydrologist to receive the prize, which recognized his continuing work on flood prediction.

Reflecting on his impending term as chair of the MIT faculty, Bras noted, “I’ve been on the faculty here since 1976, and I’ve taken on lots of jobs, largely in line management, and through that I’ve gotten to know the administration.”

“I never even went to a faculty meeting,” he laughed. “Now I am going to be the one person to represent the faculty in the governance of MIT.” Bras had noticed that the faculty chair never came to visit departments, so with Professor Steven Graves, this year’s faculty chair, Bras began systematically to visit departments. He has begun the effort to listen to the faculty. He said that during his term he hopes to see if he can “give a good reason for faculty to try to become more involved in decisions of MIT.”

In all his involvements with MIT, Bras has entered into his responsibilities with energy and enthusiasm. Whether as a faculty member or an Association volunteer, he is truly a fully involved citizen of MIT.

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