MIT Alumni Share Their Thoughts on “Most Successful” List

by Jay London on March 3, 2015 · 1 comment

in Alumni Life, In the News, Media

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 on 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 Scholz ’69, SM ’70

“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.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mrs. Stephen J. Madden, Jr. March 15, 2015 at 8:38 am

It is wonderful that there are so many successful people who graduated from MIT and that most of the respondents feel that success is defined differently by each individual. For me, success is defined as being a good person and making the world a better place, not the usual definition. As a result, I would pretty much turn the list upside down, but I admit that all of the individuals have certainly been successful in the usual sense of the word. What a world this would be if we all strived to be good people, helping our fellow man and doing good work and not necessarily making a lot of money.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: