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My View: Celebrate Excellence

MIT’s standard shaped us.

As Susan Hockfield has observed, MIT has a single, unwavering standard of excellence, which applies to all departments and to work ranging from the most basic, curiosity-driven research to the most intensely practical applications. This standard is the hallmark of students, staff, and alumni. Through the Alumni Association, we have a lifelong opportunity to connect to this diverse and energetic group of people who are always learning and changing. Let me share some of their stories with you.

Joseph Knapp Boddiford Jr. ‘71 put his mechanical engineering degree to an unusual use. He was recently named Georgia’s Sunbelt Southeastern Farmer of the Year in recognition of his active community leadership, his first-rate farm management, and his use of innovative farming practices.

“Sometimes just managing to survive to fight another day is the key to success,” he says. “In farming, you can do everything perfectly, and then get hit by drought or torrential rains. If you throw in the towel, you will fail. But if you hang in there and keep doing the right things, you may be able to pass go and get another shot next year.”

Bert Forbes ‘66 was influenced by Professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton, SM ‘27, ScD ‘31, who said, “Be honest. Work hard. Have fun. And always be good to people.” Forbes and his wife, Candee, founded Ziatech, which designed and manufactured industrial-quality computer hardware. They ran the company for 24 years and had 210 employees when, in 2000, they sold their company to Intel. To show thanks for the tremendous success that Doc’s words brought him, Bert and Candee Forbes made donations to MIT’s Edgerton Center and to the Ray and Maria Stata Center. They remain interested in helping undergraduates make valuable friendships at MIT.

When Maureen Stancik Boyce, SM ‘91, SM ‘93, PhD ‘95, left MIT, she had much more than a doctorate in ocean engineering and a master’s degree from the Sloan School. She had found a home, a mentor, and unexpected help in time of need. She thrived in the academic environment. During one semester she struggled to pay her tuition. A staff member in the Department of Ocean Engineering told her, “Don’t worry. We’ll find the money for you.”

Boyce was a volunteer fund-raiser for the MIT Alumni Fund, and MIT decided to allocate money that she had raised from her fundraising calls to a scholarship. Now a partner at Ignition Ventures, a technology startup consultancy she founded with Sloan alumna Amy Salzhauer, MBA ‘96, Boyce participates in Sloan’s resume-coaching program and is a sponsor for the MIT Externship Program. She says the externship program is important because it helps students make connections and begin networking.

Chiquita White ‘85, who is a section head at Procter and Gamble, believes in volunteering for MIT because her MIT experience contributed a great deal to the career and life she now enjoys. She has given 20 years of outstanding service to MIT and its students. White is president of Black Alumni of MIT, a group committed to attracting African-American students as well as professors to MIT.

“Professors have a powerful influence on student lives. They serve as role models, mentors, and important voices that command attention of students and the MIT community,” White says. “Role models don’t necessarily make the path easier, but they do show that the goal is attainable.”

MIT’s core values of hard work, integrity, pursuit of truth, and its commitment to meritocracy have shaped us. MIT asked for our best and made us our best. Alumni have taken these values with them and have truly made a difference to others. And now it’s your turn. Get involved. Donate your time and money to a part of the Institute you care about. Make the MIT Alumni Association a part of your life and enjoy this lifelong connection to the fullest.

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