Alumni Volunteer Connection

The Hard Work of Progress

Many of you have already heard the news that President Charles M. Vest is planning to step down next fall after what will be 14 years of distinguished service. If you have followed the course of the Institute during President Vest’s tenure, you no doubt are familiar with the remarkable record of growth and leadership that he amassed at MIT. The strength of any organization as complex and dynamic as MIT is, indeed, the vision and performance of its leadership. As alumnus Maurice Hedaya ‘51 wrote to the Alumni Association upon hearing the news, “We will certainly miss him. Clarity of purpose and actions are rare.” I heartily agree.

These qualities have been quite apparent to me over the years through my informal conversations with President Vest. And as president of the Alumni Association, I’m also fortunate to meet officially with President Vest from time to time, enabling me to garner valuable insights about the health and direction of the Institute. During the coming months, there will be much talk about the future direction of MIT, so I think it is important for all alumni to understand what is currently happening at the Institute.

You may have heard, for instance, about belt-tightening going on at MIT. News of layoffs made both regional and national newspapers, which is not surprising given MIT’s outstanding reputation for success.

However, it is readily apparent that MIT remains a dynamic institution. The faculty has never been stronger. During the past two years, MIT faculty have won every major award in science and engineering, including the Nobel Prize, the National Medal of Science, the Draper Prize, and quite a few more. The student body continues to be among the very best in the world, with nearly half of this year’s entering class once again valedictorians of their high schools. Major investments have been made in undergraduate and graduate student housing. New community spaces to connect faculty and students outside of the classroom have been created. State-of-the-art athletic facilities to strengthen the body and exercise the mind have been built. The Institute has created more undergraduate scholarships, more graduate fellowships, and more funding for faculty to create innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

Equally important, our research funding is growing as a result of new partnerships with government and industry. Numerous new academic programs have been launched to give students more hands-on exposure to the world of business, government, research, and international collaboration. The MIT faculty launched the pioneering OpenCourseWare program that promises to have global implications. Overall, the Institute is nothing short of world-class. 

In addition to these recent accomplishments, the Institute has implemented a plan of financial belt-tightening forced upon it by economic realities. The impetus behind the plan is very specific and related to the endowment’s weak performance during this economic downturn. (The Institute uses gifts and income earned from its endowment to cover nearly one-third of its operating expenses.) Given the poor economy of the past few years, it was estimated that a serious shortfall would occur in the general operating budget if a correction strategy were not employed.

President Vest and his administration proactively put together a course correction to be implemented over the next two years. It was estimated that a shortfall of $35 million could occur in the current fiscal year, which began last July 1. However, the administration, faculty, and staff, through hard work and good planning, devised ways to reduce operating expenses by $34 million this year. But their work is far from done. Depending on the economy’s performance in the short term, the Institute could be facing reductions of twice that amount next fiscal year.

In conversations with President Vest, I’ve learned that this fiscal challenge is being met with great resilience by staff and faculty alike, with ideas both large and small being valued and shared across the campus. (The Institute created a special Web site at web.mit.edu/finances to facilitate information sharing.)

In addition, executive vice president John Curry has appointed an FY ‘05 Budget Task Force that is working collaboratively to develop a budget proposal that will leverage technology, reduce redundancies, and simplify processes-all aimed at lowering operational costs while increasing administrative efficiency.

In short, the Institute is rolling up its sleeves to tackle this issue with all the ingenuity and hard work for which MIT is world renowned. And with the “clarity of purpose and action” that President Vest has brought to his administration, the faculty and staff of MIT are working together to correct the shortfall and strengthen the Institute’s position. After all, when it comes to problem solving, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a fine track record. -Paula J. Olsiewski, PhD ‘79

A League of His Own

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you’re drafted in the 27th round with the 793rd overall pick, you’re a long shot. Jason Szuminki ‘00 is both, a rocket scientist and a long shot-though that could soon change. That’s because Jason Szuminski is on the cusp of accomplishing something no graduate of MIT has ever done before-making it to The Show. (Eat your heart out, Crash Davis.)

Szuminski, who graduated from MIT with a degree in aerospace engineering, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2000. In three short years, he pitched himself to the top of the Cubs’ minor-league system. This past fall, he took another step forward when he received a coveted invite to the Arizona Fall League, a six-week instructional season designed to let top prospects compete against each other and attract attention from the majors.

“The Arizona Fall League was a great experience,” says Szuminski, who grew up in San Antonio, TX, “because you’re measuring yourself against the best players in the minors.”

Szuminski modestly describes his play in Arizona as “okay,” though he apparently turned some heads when he recorded 19 strikeouts in 19 innings-a ratio that scouts tend to notice. And notice they did. This past December, the Kansas City Royals selected Szuminski in baseball’s Rule V draft, a supplemental draft designed to prevent teams from stockpiling talent. After the Royals selected Szuminski, they immediately traded him to the San Diego Padres.

“Things are getting pretty exciting now,” says Szuminski, as Rule V dictates that a player selected in the supplemental draft must remain on the major-league roster the entire season or be returned to his original team with compensation-meaning the Padres will give Szuminski every opportunity to make their team. “It’s a terrific opportunity, and I intend to take advantage of it.”

Szuminski is only the second MIT grad to play minor-league baseball, the other being Alan Dopfel ‘72, also a pitcher, who rose as high as AAA. Szuminski, who threw in the low- to mid-90s during his time at MIT, says his style of pitching has changed since his days at the Institute. “I was a power pitcher at MIT, relying primarily on my fastball. But when I got to pro ball, I got hit pretty well, so I knew I had to develop other pitches.”

The 6’4”, 220-pound engineer began working on a slider and a sinker to keep hitters off balance. Szuminski still throws a fastball in the low 90s, but it’s his sinker that causes fits. It’s become such an effective weapon that it caught the eye of ESPN’s Peter Gammons, who mentioned Szuminski in his column last November.

“I couldn’t believe the response I got from being in that column,” says Szuminski, who jokingly added, “Mr. Gammons seemed more impressed with my alma mater than my pitching.”

But in the competitive world of professional baseball, a mention by Peter Gammons means people are watching.

“It’s flattering,” says Szuminski, “but I haven’t accomplished my goal yet, which is to make the major leagues. The way to do that is to focus on the game right in front of you. Just because I played in the Fall League doesn’t make me a shoo-in. At this level, you need to perform game in and game out. Plus, I’ve got my air force commitment to perform.”

The air force commitment stems from the ROTC scholarship Szuminski received while attending MIT, which requires him to perform five years of duty for the U.S. Air Force. After playing rookie ball for the Cubs, Szuminski missed half of the next season, fulfilling part of this obligation. Subsequently, the air force placed Szuminski in a special program used for NFL players who also have military commitments to fulfill.

“I’m allowed to play baseball right now, and during the off-season I work on high-frequency satellites for the air force,” says Szuminski, who modestly shrugs off the “alumnus conquering new frontiers” idea.

“Graduates from MIT have accomplished some pretty amazing things,” notes Szuminski, “accomplishments more noteworthy than baseball.” Still, he does take pride in representing MIT at this level.

“A lot of friends and classmates stay in touch and seem to be following my career,” says Szuminski. “I see them mostly at West Coast games, as there’s a lot of MIT engineers in California.” And his baseball teammates? “The guys tease me sometimes about MIT, but all in good fun,” says Szuminski. “I get the occasional physics question, but I must say, some of those books on the physics of pitching are just plain wrong.” 

Szuminski says he is concerned his aerospace skills will atrophy due to his split schedule. “I’ve been trying hard to stay up on my reading,” he says, adding that he sometimes travels with the latest tome on high-frequency satellites.

This spring, however, Jason Szuminski will be reading hitters, hoping he takes the final step in accomplishing his goaland bringing MIT into a whole new league.-Jim Wolken

Tech Reunions ‘04 Begins to Heat Up

Tech reunions ‘04 registration packets will be arriving in alumni mailboxes in mid-March. Alumni will also be able to register on the Web at alum.mit.edu/reunions. This year’s reunion program once again promises to be entertaining and enlightening. In addition to traditional events, like the 107th annual Tech Night at the Pops and the renowned Technology Day lectures, this year will also include special events planned for returning classes and new activities for all alumni, including a presentation on the history of hacks, an a cappella jam featuring student groups, and tours of many new buildings on campus.

Committees Forming for 2005 Reunions

Classes celebrating reunions in June of 2005 have already begun forming both their reunion event committees and reunion gift committees to plan up to four days of festivities for their classes. 

There are a number of ways you can help your class plan a great reunion and increase participation. There are projects both big and small, and volunteer contributions are welcomed.  Plus, participating with your class reunion committee is a rewarding experience, and a wonderful way to reconnect with old friends and the Institute.  

To learn more about how you can be involved and how to make your 2005 reunion one to remember, contact your class president, or the Class Programs staff at classprograms@mit.edu.

And for more information on reunion volunteer opportunities, visit the Alumni Association Web site at alum.mit.edu/ccg/, or call the Alumni Association at 1-800-MIT-1865.

Manage Your Career

Are you managing your career? Professionals know the importance of managing one’s career, particularly in an employment market like this one. It’s just one way your Alumni Association can help. The Association offers access to job listings, networking opportunities, and career services. It’s your doorway to more than 100,000 talented, influential, and diverse alumni living and working in cities from Boston to Bombay.

Check out the Institute Career Assistance Network (ICAN) online at alum.mit.edu/cs/ican/index.html. ICAN can connect you to more than 2,600 alumni who have volunteered their services to help other alumni further their careers and professional development. ICAN is there to help you through the process, from giving tips on contacting career advisors to helping you make the best of informational interviews.

You can also volunteer to be an ICAN advisor and use your experience to help other alumni further their professional development. Networking is an important step in any career. Reconnecting with old friends while you network is even better.

Your Vote Counts

The polls are now open for the national selection committee. This important Institute committee meets annually and selects the top alumni leaders, including the president of the Alumni Association, the Association’s vice presidents, and 11 at-large district directors.

The committee also nominates three members each year to serve on the MIT Corporation for a five-year term. Fifteen of the 45 corporation members are selected by this committee. (At MIT, a corporation member is the equivalent of a university trustee.)

This issue of Technology Review was mailed with a copy of the ballot attached. Alumni can also vote online at alum.mit.edu/about/electronics/nscb/.

Last year a record number of alumni voted in this important election, with over 4,000 alumni voting online. Make your voice heard. Vote today.

Presidential Search

Alumni are represented on the search committee that will select a new president for MIT. Jim Champy ‘63 will chair the committee. Other alumni include
W. Gerald Austen, MD ‘51
Denis A. Bovin ‘69
Dedric A. Carter, MNG ‘99
Arthur Gelb, ScD ‘61
Edie N. Goldenberg ‘67
Paul E. Gray ‘54, SM ‘55, ScD ‘60
Dana G. Mead, PhD ‘67 (ex officio)
Paula J. Olsiewski, PhD ‘79 (ex officio)
Kenan E. Sahin ‘63, PhD ‘69

Alumni consultants to the committee:

Alexander V. d’Arbeloff ‘49

David S. Saxon ‘41, PhD ‘44

Alumni faculty on the committee:
Rafael L. Bras ‘72, SM ‘74, ScD ‘75 (ex officio)
Peter Diamond ‘63
Paula T. Hammond ‘84, PhD ‘93
Sheila Widnall ‘60, SM ‘61, ScD ‘64

Travel the World with MIT Alumni

The MIT alumni travel program has an adventuresome travel schedule to offer alumni this fall and winter, including trips to Patagonia, Kenya, and China. There’s also an exciting trip to Cambodia and Vietnam from September 19 to October 5, 2004. This trip will be hosted by MIT professor Samuel Jay Keyser.

All trips have limited availability, so alumni are encouraged to make reservations early. For more information on all the MIT Alumni Travel Program trips, or to request the MIT Explorer, a colorful catalogue of 2004 trips, visit the MIT Alumni Travel Program online at http://alum.mit.edu/lt.

Recognizing Accomplishment

Last year the mit alumni association launched a new program, entitled the Volunteer Honor Roll (VHR). The honor roll recognizes alumni, parents, widows, spouses, faculty, or current students for extraordinary individual performance in volunteer work completed between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2004. Volunteers can qualify for the honor roll in a wide range of categories, ranging from fund-raising to club service to individual special projects.

A committee appointed by the executive vice president of the Alumni Association will review nominations two times per year, in December and June. Those nominees selected for the Volunteer Honor Roll will be listed on the Alumni Association Web site. A maximum of 50 individuals per year may be selected for the Volunteer Honor Roll. If you know of a volunteer who did a stellar job on a particular project this year, please nominate him or her for this honor at http://alum.mit.edu/gv/volunteer/recognition/.

Contagious Energy of the Entrepreneur

Some volunteers just bring a different level of passion to an organization. Take alumnus Matt Haggerty ‘83. When Haggerty was an undergraduate at the Institute, he knew that he wanted to start his own business. So when he discovered the MIT Enterprise Forum, an organization created by the Alumni Association to promote the formation and growth of technology-oriented startup companies, he decided to attend one of its meetings.

 “I had been fascinated by entrepreneurial endeavors for some time,” says Haggerty, “so the Enterprise Forum seemed interesting. After one meeting I was hooked.”

Haggerty has been involved with the Enterprise Forum ever since, first as an attendee at the forum’s entrepreneurial seminars.

“For me, the Enterprise Forum became contagious,” says Haggerty. “I mean, MIT is a very contagious atmosphere to begin with. The energy level is high. The sense of accomplishment and can-do is everywhere. And then I discovered the forum, which was focused on the very subject that fascinated me. It felt very comfortable from the start.”

Haggerty earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1983 and his master’s in 1985. After leaving the MIT Innovation Center, he started his own company, Product Genesis, headquartered in Cambridge not far from campus (www.productgenesis.com).

The company did well, and a few years later, Haggerty started a second company, Altair Avionics, an aerospace electronics developer and manufacturer.

As Altair Avionics was getting established, Haggerty was approached by the Cambridge chapter of the Enterprise Forum to consider being a volunteer.

“Since I had benefited from the forum,” says Haggerty, “I thought it appropriate to give back.’ Volunteering was enormously rewarding and has been the beginning of a long commitment for me.”

Haggerty first served on the board of the Cambridge Forum, the founding chapter, and then later as its chair. He currently serves as the chair of the national organization, looking after 23 chapters and some 20,000 constituents.

“I enjoy entrepreneurs, and I enjoy teaching and sharing ideas,” says Haggerty. “It builds connectivity to the business community.”

In his spare time, Haggerty likes to hunt and fish, but playing with his two kids is his number one hobby. Haggerty is also a pilot and owns a helicopter  that he muses about using to avoid the heavy Boston traffic.

“Unfortunately, there’s an ordinance in Cambridge against landing [a helicopter] on a private building,” he jokes. “I sometimes think of moving my company to [nearby] Somerville, so I could fly to work.”

Product Genesis, as the name implies, is all about developing new products, particularly those developed through technology.

“We tend to focus on the medical, industrial, consumer, automotive, and aerospace markets,” says Haggerty. Product Genesis has hundreds of successful launches to its credit, and an impressive list of clients, including Bausch and Lomb, Glaxo-Wellcome, Nike, GE, and even NASA.

Asked if he had accumulated some of this business acumen from his time with the Enterprise Forum, Haggerty didn’t hesitate.

“Definitely,” Haggerty responds. “The Enterprise Forum can tap into MIT’s tremendous intellectual resources and bring some of the world’s leading business minds, engineers, and scientists to the forefront. It’s a great environment for learning.”

Christine Tempesta, director of alumni activities, who oversees the MIT Enterprise Forum, considers Matt Haggerty the quintessential volunteer.

“Matt is a top-notch volunteer,” says Tempesta. “His entrepreneurial experience alone makes him an ideal fit, but also his enthusiasm is contagious, and his willingness to roll up his sleeves and dig in to a project is truly impressive.”

Haggerty smiles when he talks about entrepreneurs, who he says all have endless amounts of energy. “That’s one of the benefits of volunteering with the forum,” says Haggerty. “The energy level is very contagious.”

Haggerty has served as chairman of the national office for three years now, and his term will end come July.

“I’m sure I’ll stay involved with the forum in some capacity,” says Haggerty, “because I find volunteering for the organization very rewarding. And I like to stay connected to the Institute in general. It’s a great resource for me, as I’m hooked on trying to turn ideas into reality. It’s what my company is all about, what the Enterprise Forum is all about, and in many ways, what MIT is all about.”-Harry B. James

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