‘He loved us, and we loved him’

MIT community recalls fallen officer Sean Collier, who made a big impression in 15 months at MIT.


MIT has identified the police officer killed in the line of duty on Thursday evening as Patrol Officer Sean A. Collier, 27, of Somerville, Mass.

Collier had served as a member of the MIT Police since Jan. 9, 2012, following service as a civilian employee with the Somerville Police Department. He was single and a native of Wilmington, Mass.

“Sean was one of these guys who really looked at police work as a calling,” said MIT Police Chief John DiFava. “He was born to be a police officer.”

Collier was shot Thursday evening following an altercation at the corner of Vassar Street and Main Street in Cambridge, roughly between Building 32 (Stata Center) and Building 76 (David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research) on the MIT campus. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The MIT Police, Cambridge Police Department and Massachusetts State Police are continuing their investigation of the circumstances surrounding Collier’s death.

“The loss of Officer Collier is deeply painful to the entire MIT community,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said. “Our thoughts today are with his family, his friends, his colleagues on our police force and, by all accounts, the many other members of our community who knew him. This is a senseless and tragic loss.”

“The MIT Police serve all of us at the Institute with great dignity, honor and dedication,” said Israel Ruiz, MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer. “Everyone here — those who knew Officer Collier, and those who did not — are devastated by the events that transpired on our campus last night. We will never forget the seriousness with which he took his role protecting MIT and those of us who consider it home.”

‘He loved us, and we loved him’

DiFava said Collier was highly involved with MIT’s student population. “In a very short period of time, it was remarkable how engaged he was with students,” DiFava said.

“He wanted to get to know students — he wanted to understand us,” senior Michele Pratusevich said. “And he did it; he knew which students he was protecting every day when he came to work. By getting to know students, by talking to us, by sharing memories with us, by hiking with us, by dancing with us, by listening to music with us, he knew his community. He loved us, and we loved him.”

Maddie Hickman ’11 recalled Collier’s frequent stops by MIT’s student center while on his shift — and his dancing of the Lindy Hop.

“At first, some of the dancers were nervous at the ‘police presence’ in the room, but Sean made friends quickly,” she said. “In the spirit of trying new things, he even started taking swing-dancing lessons in his time off, so he could participate in future dances ‘without being embarrassed,’ as he said.”

‘He truly was an asset to our campus’

Dozens of other students and alumni who met Collier in his 15 months at MIT described him as “dedicated,” “cheerful,” “personable,” “charming” and “kind.” Many encountered him through his involvement with MIT-EMS, the Institute’s ambulance service — which transported the wounded officer to Massachusetts General Hospital last evening.

“Many on campus knew him because he was just so friendly,” junior Max Tang recalled. “I had known of him for many months before having the pleasure of meeting him. … He was always smiling, always had a funny story to tell, and he would always remember what I was up to last time we spoke and would ask about it. … He truly was an asset to our campus.”

“He inherently cared about this campus, and the people in this community,” Lawrence Wong, a graduate student in aerospace engineering, said. Sophomore David Hou described Collier as “a friendly and down-to-earth kind of guy that you would want to be friends with.”

The young officer, MIT senior Noel Morales said, was a regular presence at student events — and one who would always introduce himself to students, ask their names, and crack jokes. “He was always really fun to hang out with,” Morales said.

‘A joy to be around’

Even students who had only just met Collier felt drawn to him.

“I met Sean just a week ago,” sophomore Jennifer Plotkin said. “After the events at the Marathon on Monday, Sean Facebook-messaged me to tell me that he was glad I was OK. … He was extremely kind, caring and a joy to be around.”

“In the short time I knew him it was obvious that Sean cared deeply about his job, his friends and family, and anyone around him, even if he had just met them,” MIT-EMS member Kat Goldsmith said. “He assisted and protected me even before he knew my name, even going out of his way to follow my all-female squad on calls (even when he knew we could take care of ourselves). That was just the kind of person he was — quick to go out of his way to help others, make a joke and smile.”

‘Never seen a star rise as fast’

Collier was also active with the MIT Outing Club (MITOC), joining students in hiking — especially winter hiking.

“During one hike, we tried to make it ‘retro-MITOC-themed,’ including yodeling,” Pratusevich recalled. “Sean claimed he wasn’t much of a singer, but was one of the first to try his hand at the elusive art of yodeling. Hearing his deep voice crack over those yodels definitely made that hike (we didn't reach the top) one of the more fun hikes I’ve been on. He was eager to strut his plaid flannel, yodel off the sides of a mountain, enjoy eating his chocolate and pepperoni, and be happy and cheerful even with our exceedingly slow pace.”

Others were amazed by Collier’s rapid embrace of winter hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains — home to some of the nation’s most brutal weather.

“Sean was a MITOC all-star,” mechanical engineering graduate student Matthew Gilbertson ’08 said. “In my nine years with MITOC, I have never seen a star rise as fast as Sean’s.”

‘An altruist’s heart’

“The thing that impressed me about Sean was how enthusiastically he took the plunge into winter hiking, how quickly he mastered it, and how rapidly he made friends,” Gilbertson added. “Sean’s first big winter hike was in January, and just a few weeks later, he was already climbing Mount Washington in winter — one of the toughest outdoor feats in the eastern United States.”

“He was the kind of person who would willingly offer help, even at inconvenience to himself, without having to be asked,” MITOC member Andrew Ding added. “It’s easy to understand why he became a police officer. He gave me the strong impression he had an altruist’s heart.”

Ding said that a few months ago, he and Collier were involved in a car accident while driving to the White Mountains for a MITOC trip. “Sean was the first out of our car to go check and see if the [other driver] was OK,” Ding said. “It would be exceedingly difficult to imagine him not stepping up and doing the right thing when he had the chance, which unfortunately he did last night.”

Collier’s family has requested that gifts in his memory go to The Jimmy Fund. MIT has created a Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund that will support a Collier Medal — to be awarded to individuals who demonstrate Collier’s values — and other causes.


Topics: Campus emergency, Emergency, Faculty, Police, Staff, Student life, Students, Community, Graduate, postdoctoral, MIT Administration, Obituaries, President L. Rafael Reif, Undergraduate, Sean Collier

Comments

Sean will truly be missed. Please join us in sharing memories of him. http://seancolliermemories.tumblr.com/
I first got to know Officer Collier through his involvement with the MIT Outing Club. He had an incredible rapport with students and was always a pleasure to be around. A few weeks ago, Officer Collier drove me home after a bicycle accident. I will never forget his reassuring smile, his kindness, and his dedication to MIT.
Sean Collier, we will remember you for all the good of how you lived. We will go on to carry that good with us into the world, to keep you with us at heart. As I have said this for my friend Ross, after 4-16-07 at VT, so I say this now for you too. Love goes with us on the journey, even when it is unexpected. Love stays with each of us who remains here. And Love keeps us connected, heart to heart, even across time. Bless you very much, and all your family and friends, and everyone who cares, despite adversity, despite terror. We grieve. Yet even as we do, we rise, and go on. Good will prevail. We who remain will work together, and make it so.
Deepest , sincere sympathy from Israel regarding the most unfair fatality of the MiT police officer . After almost three years in IDF , It is Infeasible to stay indifferent to the fall of a man on duty , even overseas! As an individual with ambition to once become a foreign undergraduate at MiT, I really find it difficult to believe that the claws of terror are of such a scale... Let me congratulate you for your strength resiliency as a community at those difficult times , Kolin, Jerusalem
God Bless the soul of Officer Collier, and may he rest in peace. The entire MIT community is shocked, saddened and outraged by this senseless act of violence. May each Federal, State and local police officer we safe as they continue to be in harm's way of this terrorist.
http://web.mit.edu/tencate/www/
From Madrid, Spain, I send my condolences to Sean's family and the community at MIT
Dear family and friends of Sean Collier, I want to convey to you my most sincere condolences. Not only he died like a hero but from what I read he was a real pleasure to be with, which makes me wish I could have known him. From Palo Alto, CA, I mourn with you and have you in my prayers.
It's such a shame to lose such a good officer. He was incredibly young and it's disappointing to lose such a descent member of our community.
Also in Madrid-area Spain. Riveted by the news that the MIT community has suffered this loss. My heart goes out to Sean's family, the MIT community, including those students who welcomed Sean into the MIT family. I know these students--everyone who works on campus is part of our family. Cynthia MIT '90 (Course II)
im very touched about what happend to him RIP from chile my toughs and prayers are whit the family and the MIT peace and love
What a tragedy and a loss of such a young life. We hold you close to our heart Sean and are keeping your family and the MIT community in our prayers.
My deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sean Collier. He died protecting us all and we are forever in his debt.
My sincere condolences to the family of Patrol Officer Sean A. Collier. This is a sad day for the entire MIT family. -- Sam, Class of 1977
From Sydney, Australia ... my thoughts and prayers go to the parents and family of Sean Collier. As well as to the people of Boston for the marathon bombing tragedy. God bless the Boston Police and the other Law Enforcement Agencies in the US.
My deepest condolences to Sean's family. I will redouble my efforts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, and will dedicate my walk to him in September.
Such a loss to both his family and the community. Will be remembered in the heart of the people
I visited two years ago and spent almost half day til midnight when I have spent the first new year in US. I love the peaceful and open campus and still remmebered the some students bought some food at 11 PM and went to labotory for studying at the eve of the new year. I believe no one could stop the steps we carry on and MIT and My amerian friends will be much stronger after that because we are MIT. God bless you and America! Victor (ShangHai)
Deepest sympathies to the MIT Police, friends, and family of this officer from New Orleans. Sean lost his life defending MIT, Massachusetts, and the United States of America.
My thoughts and prayers are with Sean Collier's family and his many friends. As someone who worked at Stanford I know the difference a caring police officer can make be it at a crime scene, an accident or during the disruptions caused by a major earthquake. I hope Sean's family and friends will take some comfort in knowing Sean died doing what he loved protecting the students, faculty and staff of M.I.T. I know God welcomed him home with open arms.
The Princeton University Department of Public Safety offers our deepest condolences to Sean Collier's family. We did not know Sean personally but he is our brother who serves protecting his University Community. Our prayers go out for Sean and all of the MIT Police Department for healing. Capt Donald Reichling Princeton University DPS
Sean, you will be missed by all of us. I send my condolences to Sean's family.
As an alumna, I remember how much we all appreciated the CP. Reading of Officer Collier's killing last night hit my friends and I hard. Thank you for letting us know where to make donations in his name.
May the memories of Sean give strength to the family and to the people who knows him. Such a brave man. From Indonesia I am sending this sympathy.
The MIT family has truly lost its finest. Officer Collier: You will be missed, but I am grateful & honored you chose MIT as your extended family. Thank you.
As a Police-Officer in Bonn/Germany I know, how dangerous our job is. Rest in peace Officer Collier, my thoughst are with you, your familiy, your friends and all who knows you...
i don't know you ,sean collier but i 'll pray for you for your family world need people like you thank you for what you made excuse my bad english, i'm french
Just wanted to express our sympathy from Tennessee how sadden we are about the tragedies at the Boston Marathon and How proud we are of all the police officers, especially Sean Collier.. with alla condolences, respect & prayers to his family.
Sean... Its unjust U die now at 26 just making your job. Here in France many people dont understand, but it could happen here too. C'est très injuste... Repose en paix. Jean-Michel
Everybody must come forward to help his family.
In this dramatic situation, with the anguish in my heart for a destiny that seems invincible, we have to resume our activities, and we do a lot of wondering how it is possible misfortune. All we shivered at the tragedy that has struck a loved one, but how to resume normality without forgetting much pain? The answer is an experience of good conquering evil, an experience that meets the requirements of truth, justice, solidarity, it is made of the heart, ours, and that of every person. Of this good, we want and where we see many signs in human history, none of us is capable individually, which is why the gesture is more realistic wat to stay close to family, and put in place all the necessary solidarity, an ability to unity among men, that faith makes possible. And 'this positivity that we want to share with the family, even within the drama of this test difficult. I offer my deepest condolences to the family for the death of Sean and I assure you of my prayers for all of you.
It is with heavy hearts,and profound sadness that we have to say good bye to yet another brother in the Line of Duty.Our Prayers are with Sean's Family,and most of all,with his Department.We wish you God Speed as you prepair to respond to Heaven,and Report for Duty. Much Love and Respect, Capt.Bohannon,and the Men and Women of S.W.A.A.T. PRVT.POLICE
We feel the same empathy for those who lost their life within recent shooting taken at MIT.
I justed to let you all know, there are so, so, many of us around this world that are with all of you at MTI and with OfficercSean family in pray and loving thoughts. The mollo family in Oregon
Sean left us for more than 2 days now, I still don't believe this is true... MIT lost the finest. We lost a great friend. You will be missed forever. Rest in peace. - a Chinese student
From Brazil, I send my deepest condolences to Sean's family and to mit comunity.
This is real tragedy for our community and specially for his family. He will be missed. God rest his soul. BK.
Thank you, Sean, for your dedication and protection of MIT and its community. We are grateful to you. We pray for your peace. We pray for the peace of your family. GK
Sean A. Collier Sir, rest in peace. Deepest condolences. Your goodness will prevail and shall inspire many more. Thank you. Regards, Yanadi Sutan Indonesia/Singapore
I went to Boston and paid a visit to MIT last winter vacation when I was in depression. People's benevolence and kindness here reminded me the beauty of life and gave me the power to move on. It's so unfair for all those tragedies to happen during the past few days in such a beautiful place. I feel so sorry for the fallen officer. How I wish I could have a chance to know this kind guy. May you find peace in Heaven and I hope peace will go back to people's heart. Syun Shanghai&Hong Kong
I am terribly shocked and angry about the ugly events that happened in Boston and the susequent loss of innocent lives,my heart goes to the families of all those who lost their lives, may their souls rest in peace and big up to the men in blue the policemen and women who moved swiftly to apprehend the terrorists. bongani cibi in south africa.
First let me express my deepest sorrow to the family, it may be of little consolation to you but Sean is a Hero. He was providing safety for the people of Boston and putting his life on the line everyday he put that uniform on. Be proud of who he was and never forget him, and this wasy his spirit stays alive. My son is a police officer in one of the villages in St. Louis, MO. I to am very proud of him.
My family and myself are deeply grieved to learn of the tragic death of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and from Slovakia we all send our deepest sympathy and condolences to his family and to MIT community. In 2010-2011 we lived at Westgate apartment on Vassar Street and every morning after we got up, our little daughter looked out of the window at the MIT Police building in front of our windows to check out if MIT Police was guarding us well. It was. Thank you Sean Collier! Thank you MIT Police! God bless you!
Nice guy. My condolences
Gods speed Sean. We know how much this hurts the officers and community. Our prayers for all of you. Be strong. Jim and Carol, retired San Diego Police Officers
Although I did not personally know Sean, I am heartbroken a seemingly amazing person was taken from this world at such a young age. My Condolences to his family, friends and MIT Neighborhood for the loss of a true hero and awesome young man.
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