The tradition of recognizing retiring professors at the last faculty meeting of the year took on a special dimension at the May 15 meeting.
Seventy-eight faculty members are retiring and some were on hand to receive the applause of their colleagues.
Professor Lawrence S. Bacow, chair of the faculty, praised the retirees as "an extraordinary group of people who have collectively led departments and schools, redefined fields and disciplines, and advanced our understanding of the world around us.
"They have educated legions of students and been mentors to generations of junior faculty. They have contributed to the intellectual community that makes MIT one of the world's truly great universities, and to the collegiality and social environment that has made MIT one of the world's truly great places to work.
"Collectively, they have provided 2,817 years of service to this Institute. If you were to take this group alone and start a new university, you would have the core of a remarkably distinguished faculty.
"Fortunately, most do not plan to retire completely, but will continue to teach, do research and remain members of our scholarly community."
Professor Bacow, a member of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, said he is "always amused by the daily stream of buses that stop in front of 77 Massachusetts Avenue. Tourists from around the world get out, each eager to have their picture taken in front of MIT.
"Each time I see this happen, I have to resist the temptation to run up to them and say, `No! MIT's not the buildings. It's the people.'"
Preparing to offer a motion to mark the occasion, Professor Bacow said: "The people we are about to honor are the faculty who have helped build and maintain the extraordinary reputation that MIT enjoys today, a reputation that draws students, faculty and even tourists from around the world."
The faculty unanimously adopted the following motion addressed to the retirees:
"Be it resolved that we wish to express to you our appreciation for your many years of distinguished contribution and service to MIT, and that we look forward to many more years of collegial activities with you, in teaching, research and service to the Institute."
[Editor's note: the names of retiring members of the faculty will be included in the complete list of retirements to be published next month.]
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 22, 1996.