During a collegial and joyous lunch in early November, several past and present faculty members of the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MechE) came together to thank MechE alumnus Hock E. Tan ’75 SM ’75 for his generous gift and to join him in honoring Professor Emeritus Nam P. Suh, department head of MechE from 1991-2001.
Tan recently honored Suh by creating the Nam P. Suh Professorship in Mechanical Engineering. Suh, along with Professor Peter Griffith SCD ’56 and many others, was a mentor to Tan during his time at MIT.
Current department head Gang Chen was the first to recognize Tan during the celebratory luncheon and thank him for bringing this group together. He noted that both he and Professor Seth Lloyd, the inaugural Nam P. Suh chair holder, were both hired into MechE by Nam Suh during his tenure as department head.
“Traveling to Los Angeles twice to recruit [Gang] was one of the best investments I made during my time as department head,” Suh said. He also offered his personal congratulations to Lloyd, saying, “I have always felt that the first chair holder is important, and I know that Seth will make it one of the most distinguished chairs here at MIT.”
Suh went on to share how deeply honored and humbled he is to have a chair in his name at MIT, and praised Tan by saying, "An astute decision maker who is loyal to his employees, Hock has done a great job in his career and has brought a number of companies to great success. He is one of the smartest people I know and an exceptional person.”
Lloyd, a leader in quantum mechanics, also shared how honored he is to receive such an unexpected award, especially, he says, since he is not a "traditional" mechanical engineer. He recognized the role Suh had in making the Department of Mechanical Engineering the eclectic and broad department it is today by branching out to hire people like himself from many different backgrounds.
He went on to recognize Tan’s generosity and how important gifts like his are to maintaining the greatness of both MIT and MechE — and also how important alumni like him are: “The main asset of MIT is that the very smartest and most talented people are not the faculty in the room,” he said, “but the graduates like Hock who go out into the world and do amazing things. These are our best and brightest,” he continued, “and if we are lucky, sometimes they come back again.”
He ended by thanking Tan for his “strong generosity and his modesty in naming the professorship after Nam, one of my favorite people here. I am honored to hold the chair in his name.”
Dean of the School of Engineering Ian A. Waitz agreed. “The most important part of MIT is its people,” he said. “The students who come through here and go off to do great things, and the faculty and staff we have here on campus help them on that journey.”
Waitz presented Tan with a uniquely MIT gift — a piece of limestone from the original MIT Dome — and welcomed him to the MIT Charter Society, a group of MIT’s closest and most generous friends and donors. “You have to be from MIT to appreciate a piece of limestone,” he joked. “It’s not fancy or very pretty, but it is meaningful.”
Gang Chen also presented Tan with a gift on behalf of MechE: a 3-D-printed MIT Dome made especially for him by students in the newly opened Maker Works, a state-of-the-art fabrication space in MechE, in the hopes that it would remind him of the department and its gratitude for his support. “You will always have a piece of MechE and MIT with you,” he said to Tan.
He added that Tan is now a permanent member of Maker Works and can come back any time to use the lab.
Tan was thankful for the gifts and expressed how delighted he is to name a chair in Suh’s honor, and how pleased he was that Lloyd is the first holder of the chair.
“We as alumni go out into the real world and stand on the shoulders of giants like those in the room,” he said. “This is what we benefit from as graduates of the school, and I am very pleased to have this opportunity to reciprocate to MIT through this gift.”