MIT to celebrate 150th anniversary in 2011

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Planning has begun in earnest for MIT's sesquicentennial in 2011, when the Institute will celebrate 150 years of education and research.

MIT150 planning began in the fall of 2006. From that autumn until June 2008, Kathryn Willmore, former vice president and secretary of the Corporation, chaired a planning committee that defined the principles, scope, central events, and theme of the celebration. The planning committee comprised faculty members from all five schools, students representing the Undergraduate Association, the Graduate Student Council, and the class of 2011, and staff with related expertise or administrative responsibilities.

Sesquicentennial planning principles were developed and adopted by the planning committee in January 2007. They include creating a celebration that will be distinctive, participatory, focus on demonstrating the values of MIT, celebrating the past and envisioning the future, breaking stereotypes, communicating to the world, and being as "green" as possible. The top priorities in programming events and activities are to be reflective of history, look to the future and cement science and engineering as the cornerstones of an MIT education.

There are two branches to the planning going forward: programming and operations. A steering committee will guide and advise active programming and operations subcommittees that will execute all stages of planning. While some projects are already under way, all committees will be staffed and begin working by December 2008.  

Professor David Mindell, director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, will serve as faculty director of MIT150. He will oversee the direction of the planning and chair the steering committee. The sesquicentennial's senior director is Gayle Gallagher, who will conduct all initiatives, programs and administration. She will be assisted by Ted Johnson in the role of director of planning and operations, and supported by staff in Institute Events, the Information Center, Conference Services and Community Services.

Planning activities and initiatives

Celebrations will start with a kick-off event during IAP, include a capstone event during the founding week in April, and culminate on Commencement and alumni weekend. A website that will assist MIT groups in planning associated activities is under development and will be made available to the community in the next 12 months. A theme -- or tagline -- for the sesquicentennial has been approved by the president; it will be made public in 2010, along with an official logo. Community members are asked to remember these resources when making plans: images, graphic element downloads, and a style sheet for MIT150 "umbrella" activities will be available on the internal planning website. Any groups or DLCs that will celebrate anniversaries in 2011 will have a particular interest in coordinating with MIT150 and may start to plan soon; please contact Ted Johnson for more information or counsel in how to get started.

The class of 2011 was designated the Sesquicentennial Class, and a representative will be part of the steering committee. While there are still many activities and events to be determined, some key events and initiatives have begun. They include books, expansion of the Cambridge Science Festival during April, an arts and sciences festival, an oral history project, an external and public website, and the Global Service Challenge.

Mindful of the mission of MIT, the planning committee developed the Global Service Challenge in conjunction with the Public Service Center, the Edgerton Center, and the Lemelson-MIT Program. The IDEAS Competition is the model that will be scaled up over the next two years to accommodate the anticipated size of the Global Service Challenge. Challenge teams will seek solutions to specific problems they have observed: whether the problems are abroad or at home in Cambridge, the solutions must bring a measurable improvement to the quality of human life. The name of the project was chosen to emphasize that this is less of a competition than it is a collective effort to serve humanity. Community members (alumni, faculty, staff, and students) who may be interested in participating in the Global Service Challenge should start thinking now about the composition of their teams and what problem they would like to solve. For more information, please contact the MIT150 office at 617-253-2011.

MIT150 steering committee members

Richard Amster
Paul Baranay '11 (UA designate)
Cynthia Barnhart
Dedric Carter
Erich Caulfield
John Durant
Stephen Graves
Paul Gray
Mark Jarzombek
Philip Khoury
Kirk Kolenbrander
Daniel Li '11
Kathryn Liede
Jeff Newton
Oaz Nir, G (GSC designate)
Hazel Sive
Blanche Staton
Ann Wolpert

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 5, 2008 (download PDF).


Topics: Cambridge, Boston and region, Special events and guest speakers, Volunteering, outreach, public service

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