MIT Professor J. Kim Vandiver has devoted his career to helping students achieve great things, as founder of the Edgerton Center and an early advocate for the MIT Teacher Education Program.
Last Friday, the Boston Minuteman Council of the Boy Scouts of America honored Vandiver's work by naming him a Distinguished Eagle Scout. The honor goes to Eagle Scouts who have had outstanding careers after earning the Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouting.
Vandiver was presented with the award at the 2006 Cambridge Good Scout Luncheon, held at the Hotel@MIT.
Vandiver, who grew up in Yakima, Wash., became an Eagle Scout in 1960. He is now dean of undergraduate research and a professor of mechanical and ocean engineering at MIT. In 1992, he founded the Edgerton Center, which supports student projects such as the Solar Electric Vehicle Team and involves students in humanitarian engineering projects in developing countries.
In his 31 years at MIT, his most rewarding experiences have been those that allowed him to help students accomplish great things, Vandiver said.
"I see the Scouting experience as an enabling experience," Vandiver said. "It builds leadership skills and generates motivation and confidence."
To illustrate the importance of those qualities, Vandiver told luncheon attendees about a recent visit he had from two MIT students who wanted to bring 90 students from around the world to campus this summer for a 9-week project to develop cars powered by alternative fuels. With only 4 weeks to go before the planned start date, Vandiver didn't think the students could pull it off. But with his help the project was launched on June 13 with 40 visiting students in residence at MIT, working at the Vehicle Design Summit. Vehicle fabrication will be done in partnership with the Rindge School of Technical Arts in Cambridge.
Vandiver said the students have already begun designing their cars and plan to start building models in a couple of weeks.
Several Cambridge officials were on hand at the Scouting luncheon, including Cambridge Mayor Kenneth Reeves, who hosted the ceremony and noted that "we have some truly extraordinary honorees." Other awards presented were the Cambridge Good Scouts Awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
There are about 1.5 million Eagle Scouts, but only about 1,600 have received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. Past recipients include Gerald Ford, Lloyd Bentson, Donald Rumsfeld, Ross Perot, Neil Armstrong and Steven Spielberg.
Neil Lupton, a member of the executive board of the Boston Minuteman Council and a 1965 graduate of MIT, presented Vandiver with his award.
Vandiver, who was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow for excellence in teaching in 2001, has also received the MIT President's Award for Community Service and the Graduate Student Council Teaching Award.