The January 27 article  article. Screenshot via businessinsider.com

Screenshot via businessinsider.com

On February 3, Slice of MIT linked to an article on businessinsider.com that listed the 21 “most successful” MIT alumni. As Slice mentioned at the time, determining success is entirely subjective and determining the most successful MIT alumnus is impossible.

We were not endorsing the website’s arbitrary list, but we did hope it would generate conversation among the MIT community.

And it did.

Since the story was published, nearly 100 alumni have responded on Slice and social media. Some questioned why we would highlight the list and many saw list-making of any kind as futile. But the majority used the comments to disavow the idea of success and advocate for even more alumni who they felt have made a significant positive impact in the world.

We were so impressed with the thoughtfulness of the comments—which mentioned 39 alumni from 37 different class years—that we’ve listed many of them below.

Let’s agree that defining success is not possible but acknowledge the dozens of world-changing alumni mentioned by Slice readers. Read the comments then add your own below or Facebook and Twitter.

Magliozzi

Tom Magliozzi ’58

“What about the 30-plus Nobel Prize winners? The 40 astronauts? It’s silly to name the thousands more…I am so proud to be a small part of the MIT alumni Association.” – Reid S.

“How can you include actor James Woods and exclude Tom ’58 and Ray ’73 Magliozzi from the Car Talk radio show?” – Ed R.

“Where is Ilene Gordon ’75, SM ’76?” – Peter D.

“Bob Metcalfe ’69—the inventor of Ethernet—isn’t in the ranking?” – Ken S.

“I would insert Tom Perkins ’53 (founder of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers) ahead of at least half the list.” – Frank S.

“Not listing Ken Olsen ’50, SM ’52 is a major oversight. I would also consider Ray Stata ’57, SM ’58 and Alex d’Arbeloff ’49 as worthy of inclusion.” – Mark C.

“Charles ’57, SM ’58, SM ’60 and David ’62, SM ’63 Koch, co-owners of the largest private company in the US.” – Robert

“Can’t forget Doc Draper ’26, SM ’28, ScD ‘38!” – Robert

“Philip Ragon ‘72, owner of InterSystems, made Forbes 400 list of billionaires last year. I call that pretty successful!” – Gary

Oliver Smoot

Oliver Smoot ’62

“Maybe Oliver Smoot ’62—how many people get a unit of measure named after them? Or his cousin, George Smoot ’66, PhD ’71, who won the Nobel?” – Miles F.

“Vannever Bush ’16—first presidential science advisor, initiator of the Manhattan Project, initiator of the National Science Foundation, and founder of Raytheon.”- Mike D.

“Perhaps Business Insider never heard of Donald Douglas 1914 and the DC 2-10 aircraft, the DC-3, or the Dakota as the first really viable commercial airplane and of immortal fame in WWII!” – Eliot P.

“I would add Jimmy Doolittle SM ’24, ScD ’25 for consideration, based on his contributions to instrument flight and his namesake raid.” – Alberto C.

“Wow! They are missing Charles McMillan ’33, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory.” – Carolyn Z.

“How about Doc Edgerton SM ’27, ScD ’31? Think of everything high speed photography has done for engineering, art, and instant replays!” – Jay C.

“What about software pioneers, like Mitch Kapor MBA ’81? And what about my school’s namesake, Alfred P. Sloan 1895 himself?” – Larry C.

“Don’t forget Henry Kendall PhD ’55, one of the founders/leaders of the Union of Concerned Scientists.” – Jay C.

“Why not mention Mario Draghi PhD ’76—the current President of the European Central Bank?” – Alberto

“What about Dan Bricklin ’73, who invented the computer spreadsheet?” – Alex L.

“They missed Lamberto Andreotti SM ‘77, CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Carl Gordon, PhD ’93, co-founder of Orbimed Healthcare Fund Management…Maybe the list should have been at least 100!” – Irene W.

“Just thinking of my own class—Rusty Scheickart ’56, SM ’63, astronaut, and a brilliant career afterwards, Gideon Gartner ’56, SM ’60, founder of the Gartner Group.” – Nelo S.

“I’d nominate Robert Shiller ’68, PhD ’72, the Nobel-prize winning economist at Yale, (and) Robert Swanson ’70, SM ’70, co-founder of Genentech.” – Jan J.

Tom

Tom

“Let’s not forget Tom Scholz ’69, SM ‘70, musician and co-producer of Boston, the rock album that remains my favorite after 39 years.” – Tim C.

“Missing the likes of Claude Shannon SM ’40, PhD ’40 or Norbert Wiener HM ’63.” – Emre K.

“Hard to imagine Irwin Jacobs SM ’57, ScD ’69, founder and longtime CEO of Qualcomm, not being on this list.” – Eric R.

“How could you omit Amar G. Bose ’51, SM ’52, ScD ’56?” – Chuck H.

“How about George P. Shultz PhD ‘49? MIT PhD, MIT Professor, Dean of the business school at U. Chicago, Secretary of Labor and then the Treasury under Nixon.” – Simon van N.

“I would think that Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman ’39 would make the list. He made great strides in understanding a basic, but unintuitive, property of matter – quantum mechanics.” – Roy W.

“This list needs to add the name of Raghuram Rajan PhD ’91, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.” – Harshal S.

“Bob Weinberg ’64, PhD ’49. His contributions to cancer research are unrivaled.” – Hanna S.

These comments have been edited for brevity and grammar, and to include MIT class years.

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William Linder

Bill Linder SM ’65, PhD ’68 has completed more than a dozen Ironman races.

In 1962, an MIT professor visited the graduate class of Bill Linder SM ’65, PhD ’68 graduate class at the industrial design school he was attending in Germany after leaving the U.S. Army. Linder, who had already earned a degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1956, was so impressed with the professor that he transferred to MIT to study civil and environmental engineering. The decision would profoundly shape his life both personally and professionally.

At MIT, Linder and his classmates worked on solving engineering issues with computers, a very new idea at the time. “It was civil engineering, but really, they were computer projects,” he says. “That was very remarkable.”

After graduating, Linder, who grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, wanted to return home and teach at the University of South Carolina. Soon he was hired as the university’s first full-time computer science professor. After 12 years on the faculty, he went on to serve as a county treasurer, a computer consultant, and an adjunct professor before retiring in 2002, eager to pursue his new passion: Ironman competitions.

Ironman races consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. To date, Linder has completed more than a dozen Ironman races, including two Ironman World Championships, the race held annually in October in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. When he competed in it last year, he was one of just five participants 80 or older. Unfortunately, a strong headwind derailed Linder and his fellow octogenarians. None of them finished the swim and bike portions within 10 hours and 30 minutes of starting, which would have qualified them to advance to the run. The wind was so strong Linder was sometimes riding his bike in his lowest gear, going only 4 or 5 m.p.h.

Years ago, he didn’t have to worry about finishing in time; he simply exerted all his energy and usually had hours to spare. But as he has aged, his slower pace has erased those extra hours. “There’s not much slack anymore,” he says.

Linder, however, remains undeterred. Now 81, he wants to become the oldest finisher of the Ironman World Championship. To do that, he will have to complete the race as an 82-year old next fall. “No one thought this was possible, that older people could do the Ironman. I want to keep it up as long as I can,” he says.

If he’s not swimming, biking, or running, Linder is probably at home in Columbia with Lynne, his wife of 47 years, or spoiling their three grandchildren.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.

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Shadow play at the Barker Reading Room, MIT (© Clinton Blackburn).

Shadow play at the Barker Reading Room, MIT (© Clinton Blackburn).

Clinton Blackburn is a photographer in Cambridge, MA. View more work on his website. View other alumni photos of the week.

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Slice of MIT sports storiesThe number of MIT alumni involved in professional sports grows each year. Thanks to these alumni, plus events like the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (SSAC), which begins today, the Institute’s imprint on the sports landscape is increasing.

To celebrate this growing connection, the Alumni Association has spotlighted alumni working in sports fields all week. The sports-themed week was highlighted by a Twitter chat on Tuesday, Feb. 24 that featured Jyoti Agarwal ’03, a senior director at the NBA; Brian Bilello ’97, New England Revolution president; and Mike Fitzgerald ’11, Pittsburgh Pirates quantitative analyst.

To culminate the week, scan Slice‘s archive of more than 50 sports-related stories below. As you’ll read, the Slice archives feature some surprising MIT connections in some offbeat athletics, including tug of war, ballroom dancing, weightlifting, and even professional wrestling.

 

 

 

 

 

Analytics

Auto Racing

Ballroom Dancing

Baseball

Basketball

Cheerleading

Cricket

Football

Golf

Hockey

Martial Arts

Professional Wrestling

Rowing and Sailing

Running

Skydiving

Tug of War

Olympics

Weightlifting

More Sports Stories

Have we missed any MIT-related sports connections? Let us now in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Update: Dartmouth College named Linda Muri ’85 head coach of women’s rowing in August 2014. 

Linda Muri, Harvard, Dartmouth, MIT, rowing

Linda Muri ’85

Harvard rowing coach Linda Muri is the only woman to have led a Division I men’s boat to a collegiate national championship. In fact, for 15 years she was the only female coach of a Division I men’s team. But Muri’s next challenge requires a different sort of leadership. Muri cochairs the MIT Crew Alumni Association’s boathouse committee, which is conducting a feasibility study on renovating the Harold W. Pierce Boathouse because, she says, “it’s not really serving everyone well enough.”

Muri enrolled at MIT hoping to become an astronaut. An astronautics and aeronautics major, she played varsity field hockey and basketball and ran track her first year before dipping an oar in a Class Day race for her living group, pika. “I got hooked and that was that,” she says. She rowed varsity through her undergraduate years, serving as captain for the final two.

After graduating, she did design and engineering work for boat builder Composite Engineering in Concord before focusing on making the national team herself. She rowed on that team for nine years, capturing 18 national championships and three world titles. In 1994, she set a world record rowing in a lightweight fours race at the World Rowing Championships.

Muri earned a teaching degree at Harvard in 1997 and then moved to Ithaca, New York, when her husband, Mattison Crowe, started business school. Cornell was short one coach after the semester began, and she gave it a try. “I was teaching, but it was rowing! I thought it was remarkable that that could be a job,” she says. She’s now in her 13th season coaching at Harvard, and her grateful student rowers benefit from her expertise. In fact, the MIT and Radcliffe lightweight women’s crews have named their annual series the Muri Cup in her honor.

As a board member of the MIT Crew Alumni Association, Muri supports rowing by raising money, leading projects like the boathouse renovation, and more. “We make sure the opportunity is there for students to learn about rowing and complement their studies at MIT,” she says.

And she still rows in a few races a year. Last year she won the Head of the Charles in the Women’s Senior Masters division, setting a new record. She and her husband, a marketing director for a sports and rescue rope company, live in Watertown with their French bulldog, Max.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.

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The United States Postal Service recently unveiled a new stamp commemorating the work of MIT alumnus Robert Robinson Taylor, considered the nation’s first academically trained African-American architect and the great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett of the Obama Administration. Read more in a Slice post on Taylor.

Taylor is not the first alumnus to be honored as the face of American postage. Here’s a list of other alumni and MIT-affiliated notables that have also decorated our mail:

Credit: National Postal Museum

Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63: While the first stamp celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing only featured Neil Armstrong, a 20-year anniversary stamp issued in 1989 honors both Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63, the second man to walk on the moon. Prior to Apollo 11, Aldrin served on the Gemini 12 mission and as a US Air Force jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. Aldrin ranks fourth in a recent Business Insider article highlighting MIT’s most successful alumni.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

 

George Eastman: While not an alumnus, Eastman was a great benefactor of MIT having donated $7.5 million to the Institute in the early 1900s. He founded Eastman Kodak Company and invented the Kodak camera, widely credited with ushering in a new age of amateur photography. Visit a plaque celebrating Eastman in front of Room 6-120 to take part in an 80-year MIT tradition—rubbing his nose for good luck.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

 

Richard Feynman ’39: As the 1965 Nobel Prize recipient in physics, Richard Feynman ‘39 is called a pioneer in Quantum Electrodynamics. His invention of the Feynman Diagrams revolutionized theoretical physics and were celebrated on the pop television show Big Bang Theory. Check out Slice next month for a larger story on Feynman’s quest to visit Tannu Tuva and his love of stamps.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

I.M. Pei ’40: The Louvre Glass Pyramid and Entrance, Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art, and Boston’s Hancock Tower all have been designed by I.M. Pei ‘40. His work on the East Building of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., was commemorated as part of a 2005 stamp collection titled the “12 Masterworks of Modern American Architecture.” On MIT’s campus, his firm is responsible for the Green Building (54), as well as Landau (66), Dreyfuss (18), and Wiesner (E15) Buildings.

The Postal Service rolls out upwards of 30 new stamps each year, and the public can petition a subject to be considered. The Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee, appointed by the Postmaster General, reviews stamp ideas and recommends which subjects to consider. All subjects must be of Americans that have made contributions to society or events or themes of “widespread national appeal and significance that showcase our nation’s inclusiveness,” according to the US Postal Service site.

What alumnus or alumna would you like to see on your mail? Tell us in the comments below or share on our Facebook page.

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Guest blogger: Maggy Bruzelius, MITAA

View the Antarctica: Journey in Pictures by scrolling on the right. Do not click on the Menu button. 

A few weeks ago, during Antarctica’s summer, I joined the MIT Alumni Travel Program and a group of 38 MIT alumni and guests for a two-week expedition to the last great wilderness on Earth, Antarctica. I was impressed with the whole program—gliding around enormous tabular icebergs by Zodiac, walking along beaches covered with thousands of penguins, and kayaking among whales and sea birds. You can see a dynamic collection of photos from the trip Antarctica: Journey in Pictures.

Lectures by MIT Professor Susan Solomon, who spoke about the early Antarctic explorers’ experiences, were a particular highlight. After our return, I asked her for an environmental perspective since she is the leading atmospheric chemist who discovered the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole.

Why do you think past environmental problems have something to teach us about climate change?

First and foremost, it’s a source of inspiration. There are a slew of environmental problems where we’ve been remarkably successful at making progress in the past—just to name a few, managing the challenges of ozone depletion, smog, acid rain, and lead in gasoline were each once thought to be impossible but people found ways to protect the environment and ourselves, usually at lower costs than originally feared. It’s important for people to remember that, and for younger people who didn’t live through the controversies over these things, to realize that such problems can be managed, if not solved. Younger people are usually very surprised to realize this, and it’s important to look at where we have been in the past to see where we might be able to get in the future.

Each of these past cases has something different to teach us about ways that things can happen—through factors including consumer engagement, technological advances, great science, smart policies, and combinations of all of these. Once we have thought deeply about the things that were done to advance progress on other environmental issues, I think it helps us understand the climate change challenge better and paths forward. Climate change is the toughest environmental issue people have ever faced in my opinion, but I also believe we will make more and more progress at dealing with it.

What do you hope to accomplish as the founding director of the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative?

I think the way we make the most progress on environmental issues almost always involves working across disciplinary lines. MIT has so much to offer—we have fantastic researchers spanning engineering, the physical and social sciences, management, and humanities, and I think it’s clear that we could contribute even more to environmental progress if we worked together more effectively.

The key goal of the environmental solutions initiative research is to foster that kind of interaction. We also have some exciting educational goals—we’d like to strengthen learning at MIT around environment and sustainability, and one thing we’re looking at is the development of a minor as well as targeted courses.

How can alumni help?

Alumni are a great source of ideas as well as support. We would love to hear from them.

To learn more, visit the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative and use the contact page for responses. Check out the MITAA Antarctica: Journey in Pictures photo gallery from the trip. 


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While some MIT alumni transition to professional sports after they leave the Institute, they’re not getting drafted by the MLB or NBA. They are bringing critical thinking and data analysis to the world of professional sports. Alumni work in every professional sports league in America and events like the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference demonstrate the impact that MIT-style thinking now has on professional sports.

To highlight alumni working in sports we’re hosting an #MITAlum Twitter chat on Tuesday, February 24. at noon EST with off-the-field sports pros Jyoti Agarwal ‘03, Brian Bilello ’97, and Mike Fitzgerald ’11. Agarwal, Bilello, Fitzgerald will take questions on Twitter about their time at MIT, what it’s like working in sports, and the role data and analytics play in their jobs. Learn more about these alumni and bring your questions on Tuesday at noon EST. Tweet your questions and follow the conversation with #MITAlum.

Jyoti-2Jyoti Agarwal Senior Director—Marketing and Media Planning, NBA

As Course 7 major and Course 5 minor, Agarwal left MIT with plans to become a doctor. Agarwal followed a career path that that wound through PUMA sportswear, Harvard Business School, Bain Capital, eventually landing at the NBA. Agarwal says she first fell in love with sports while attending MIT and living in Boston. “I still maintain that there is no better sports city in the world,” she says.

Bilello_BrianBrian Bilello President, New England Revolution

Bilello began working for the Kraft Sports Group in 2003 and was named president of the Revolution in 2011. While at MIT, Bilello played varsity soccer and studied chemical engineering. He recently shared with Slice, “I studied chemical engineering but MIT didn’t necessarily train me to be a chemical engineer. They trained me to solve chemical engineering problems, and I can apply that perspective to my job with the Revolution.”

Mike-FitzMike Fitzgerald Quantitative Analyst, Pittsburgh Pirates

An athlete at MIT, Course 8 major Fitzgerald transitioned from playing wider-receiver for MIT football to working behind the scenes in professional baseball. After graduation Fitzgerald found he missed the team atmosphere that sports had always provided him. Fortunately, Fitzgerald soon joined the Pittsburgh Pirates as a quantitative analyst—a role that has contributed the Pirates’ first playoff appearance in 20 years.

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Balloon launch Kenya, Africa (© Shelley Lake).

Balloon launch Kenya, Africa (© Shelley Lake).

Shelley Lake SM ’79 is a photographer in Florida. View more of her work on her website. View other alumni photos of the week.

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Brint Markle, AvaTech, MIT Alumnus

Photo credit: Philipp Becker

An increase in avalanche deaths has paralleled the rise in recreational backcountry activities in recent decades. Although avalanches can happen unexpectedly, many of the warning signs can be detected. Key risk factors include recent rain or snowfall, visible cracking and sounds of shifting terrain, extreme temperature changes, and weak layers of snow in the snowpack. These weak layers can often cause an avalanche when no other signs are present and they are the most difficult to detect with basic manual tests, such as digging snow pits and feeling layers, which offer only subjective insight.

After Brint Markle MBA ’14 had a close call in 2010 while skiing with friends in Switzerland, he wanted to know much more than the surface characteristics of snow. With this goal in mind, he enrolled in the Sloan School of Management.

SP1 Probe, AvaTech

The SP1 Probe, created by MIT alumni

While at MIT, Markle teamed up with Jim Christian SM ’14 and Sam Whittemore ’14 to form AvaTech, a company focused on proactive avalanche safety that starts with a better understanding of snow. Their first product is the SP1 probe, which was launched in September and was recognized as a National Geographic Gear of the Year for 2014 and one of the Top 100 Innovations of the Year by Popular Science. The probe is inserted into snowpack and reads the characteristics of the layers through numerous sensors—determining hardness, resistance, slope angle, aspect, GPS orientation, and ultimately detecting weak layers that could cause slides. Along with the SP1 probe, they also launched AvaNet, a cloud platform that helps backcountry travelers share critical snowpack and avalanche safety data all across the world.

The product is being marketed to professionals and forecasters, helping to make their evaluations of snow safety more informed. “The snowpack is really complex,” says Whittemore, “and we want the SP1 to make it much easier for the people out there in the backcountry to assess how the snow changes in space and time.”

Brint Markle, AvaTech, SP 1 Probe, Himalayas

Markle (right) tests the SP1 in the Himalayas, Feb. 2015. Photo credit: Brennan Lagasse.

Today Markle, who is AvaTech’s CEO, Christian, the lead product designer, and Whittemore, the lead engineer, are based in Park City, Utah, the most popular backcountry locale in the US. From there, they travel around the world demonstrating their product. For much of February, Markle has been working with the SP1 and AvaNet in the Alps and the Himalayas. “We’ve spent the last two years validating our technology with leading industry professionals,” says Markle. “Today, we have more than 400 organizations from 35 countries sharing data on the platform, spanning ski patrol, guiding companies, forecast centers, departments of transportation, snow scientists, and other snow professionals.”

Up to this point, most research and development in the avalanche field has been focused on equipment and devices to save individuals already caught in an avalanche, but a more technical understanding of avalanche prevention could truly revolutionize the industry.

Originally, the vision of the company was focused on developing the first proactive avalanche safety technology in the world, says Markle. But they have come to realize that the SP1 is the cornerstone of a much broader information sharing platform. “We talk about building a global mountain community that can share information in real time to benefit the safety of all mountain travelers. That to us, is extremely powerful.”

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