The 1995 class of Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows, announced Friday by President Charles M. Vest and Provost Mark S. Wrighton, is a diverse group-two physicists, an aeronautical engineer, an Hispanic studies specialist, a materials scientist, an anthropologist and a musician. Yet one word -- teacher -- describes the core of each of them.
The new Fellows are Wit Busza and Thomas J. Greytak of physics, Paul A. Lagace of aeronautics and astronautics, Margery Resnick of foreign languages and literatures, Donald R. Sadoway of materials science and engineering, Arthur Steinberg of anthropology and archaeology, and Marcus A. Thompson of music and theater arts.
Selection for the honor recognizes outstanding classroom teaching, major innovations in education and dedication to being an apostle of teaching in helping others achieve teaching excellence.
"The 1995 MacVicar Faculty Fellows display these traits in abundance, as do those selected in earlier years," Provost Wrighton said.
The appointments were announced at the annual MacVicar Fellows reception and luncheon held at the President's House on Friday, Feb. 3, where the main address was given by Amar G. Bose, professor of electrical engineering, and founder and chairman of Bose Corp. Others attending included Dean MacVicar's mother, her two sisters and her brother-in-law; Dr. Paul E. Gray, chairman of the MIT Corporation; many MIT deans and vice presidents; most of the earlier-named MacVicar Fellows-now 23 in number, and members of the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation.
President Vest noted that with the latest additions, the ranks of MacVicar fellows now come close to the original intentions of the program, "the formation of a small academy of scholars committed to fine teaching and innovation in education."
In introducing the speaker, Dr. Vest said that he knew of no one who more exemplifies the total spirit and tradition of MIT than Dr. Bose, "who combines absolutely incredible talent as a teacher and a mentor of students with great research accomplishments and credentials, and, of course, is one of America's leading entrepreneurs."
In brief remarks, which he said he was directing specifically to the MacVicar Fellows, Professor Bose said he has come to firmly believe that "every student. has enormous potential beyond that which any of our institutions ever tap." He paused and then emphasized each of the following words, saying: "And it can be tapped."
The three experiences Professor Bose noted were, first, knowing the legendary Norbert Wiener, who convinced him "that he did not enter this world any different than the rest of us." The second experience was a seven-year experiment in teaching sophomores sponsored by the Ford Foundation. The third experience involved Professor Bose's encounter with Jaime Escalante, the fabled Los Angeles high school calculus teacher whose success in inspiring students to great achievements was portrayed in the movie Stand and Deliver.
Professor Bose, recounting his amazement at Mr. Escalante's story, told about visiting the teacher at his school, which resembled a prison more than an institution of learning, he said.
"I only had 30 minutes (on that first visit) but in those 30 minutes I fully appreciated that everything I had done and learned qualified me only to sit at his feet and learn what teaching was all about," Professor Bose said. He made several subsequent visits to Mr. Escalante's classroom.
The last time he checked, he said, 13 of Mr. Escalante's students had matriculated at MIT or Harvard. He recalled that one student admitted to MIT could not afford her plane ticket, so Mr. Escalante bought it.
"When I saw what he has coming in the door, kids with 10-inch knives, and then saw some of them in the 12th grade when you can distinguish them by the pride they show. The most valuable jacket in the school is the AP calculus jacket.
"He (Mr. Escalante) convinced me finally that this ability really does exist in everyone-and that it should be our job to tap it. Our duty in the best institutions of this country is so much larger. Look at what we get, and we should take them so much higher than we do."
Teaching a specific discipline at a university is not as important as teaching students how to solve problems, he said. Students on average don't spend much more than seven years in the field in which they took their degrees, Professor Bose said. "Look at our alumni records. The head of surgery at Mass. General is a mechanical engineer in my class (1951)."
Professor Bose said that schools often claim that the student is the first product of the university, but the reward structure in academe makes it clear that this is largely giving lip service.
"I am so happy to see an event like this which is saying that the reward system is changing. All we do hinges on the people who are teaching."
ESTABLISHED IN 1991
The MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program was established by MIT following the death in September 1991 of Margaret L.A. MacVicar, MIT's first dean of undergraduate education. The program honors her untiring efforts-at MIT and nationally-to enhance undergraduate education. Dean MacVicar was 47 when she died.
MacVicar Fellows, of which this is the fourth group, serve 10-year terms. The fellowships provide an annual scholar's allowance to assist each Fellow in developing ways to enrich the undergraduate learning experience.
When the program was announced, Professor Wrighton said that MIT would ultimately commit at least $10 million in endowment to support it. MIT's goal is to have 60 to 80 MacVicar Faculty Fellows when the program is fully implemented.
The program has received important support from the Exxon Education Foundation-Dean MacVicar had been an Exxon Corp. director for six years at the time of her death-and from Cecil Green, the extraordinarily generous MIT benefactor and Life Member Emeritus of the Corporation who supported many of Dean MacVicar's initiatives.
Among those at the luncheon were: Robert E. Wilhelm '62, senior vice president of Exxon Corp.; Robert M. Metcalfe '68, whose challenge grant to his fellow class alumni last year was met successfully and now supports one of the MacVicar Fellowships; and Corporation Executive Committee members Dr. Shirley Jackson of Rutgers University and Samuel Bodman, chairman and chief executive officer of Cabot Corporation. Mr. Metcalfe is also a member of the Executive Committee.
In his luncheon remarks, Professor Wrighton said selection as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow is a recognition "of exceptional and creative contributions, with emphasis on recent and current activities." Fellows are selected on the basis of merit alone, he said. There are no formal quotas for schools or departments.
Appointments are made by the provost with advice from a committee appointed after consultation with the chair of the faculty.
The advisory committee for 1995 consisted of two students-Ximena Leroux and Nicole Skas-and Professors John W. Belcher of physics, John G. Kassakian and Nancy A. Lynch of EECS, Dean Arthur C. Smith of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs and Charles Stewart III of political science.
After announcing the name of each 1995 MacVicar Faculty Fellow at the luncheon, Professor Wrighton read excerpts from communications he had received supporting their nomination.
His teaching of 8.02 [the first-year class in the principles of classical physics] is outstanding and has been recognized with departmental teaching awards and the School of Science teaching award. He has led in the development of the new small-class format for these important core subjects, a format that provides freshmen with a better transition into MIT. He not only led the study to identify the basic approach, he co-authored the study guides, gives a lecture/demonstration each week for 8.01 and prepares 12 exams. Few faculty members are so dedicated to excellence in undergraduate education as Professor Busza. Efforts of this sort are essential to maintaining the vitality of education at MIT. I believe that the MacVicar Fellowships were set up to reward just this kind of exceptional behavior.
He has made major educational contributions to the sophomore course on vibrations and waves, which attracts a large number of engineering students-it is required for aeronautics/astronautics students-in addition to physicists. In addition to presenting beautifully clear lectures he introduced two major innovations, revamping the course so as to preserve its core physics context while making it much more relevant for engineers. More recently he developed a superb take-home experimental component, a `tool box' students use in their rooms to do a set of experiments on wave phenomena. Tom runs a superlative course. Demonstrations are stunning. Aero/astro students clearly saw the linkage between the physics and our vehicles. As a lecturer, he is organized, smooth and very attentive to the students' needs, putting in lots of effort to help them, without pandering to them.
His structural mechanics course is one of the best courses that I have taken since coming to MIT. His overwhelming enthusiasm about the material makes the class both interesting and enjoyable. By continuously involving the students in his lectures, he makes the learning process more personable. I have been involved with Professor Lagace through the Tech Catholic Community where he is the chairman of the faculty/alumni advisory board, displaying the same enthusiasm that he has in the classroom.. He is always looking for ways in which he can help the community. His example as a teaching assistant (in 1978) encouraged me to pursue the same position when I was a senior. His example as a professor helped me to decide to stay in academe. As strong as his passion is to understand the behavior of composite materials, so is his desire to impart that knowledge to others.
For the 20 years that I have been at MIT she has been a mainstay of humanistic undergraduate education. She has inspired hundreds of students to read and think seriously about matters of language, history, ethics, literary value and comparative cultural meaning. In addition to being one of the founders of Women's Studies at MIT, she was for many years housemaster of McCormick. She has a widely known and well-deserved reputation as a great teacher, lively and amusing, fast on her feet, quick to engage and debate with our feisty students, responsible in her expectations, sympathetic yet rigorous in her responses. She is creating an archive of the early history of women in science and engineering, training MIT undergraduates to collect oral histories of MIT's alumnae. She has an uncanny ability to draw students beyond their own narrow beliefs and to broaden their intellectual and personal horizons in ways that transform their lives.
His contributions are enormous and the class is in rapt attention from beginning to end. His lectures are highly articulate yet animated and he has uncommon grace and style. I was awed by his ability to introduce playful and creative elements into a core lecture for 400 students. He is one of the most gifted and, dedicated and uncompromising teachers I know, and he is not only committed to the teaching of science and engineering, but also to the science and engineering of teaching. He is truly an exceptional lecturer and has been a role model to me as I begin my teaching career. He has the rare gift of being able to be most demanding and at the same time to appear engaging to the students. He has designed a new series of interrelated experiments which make full use of the power of computational approaches to experiment design, control and analysis.
He has great dedication, skill and effectiveness as a teacher. His openness and receptivity to students are renowned. He advises many anthropology/archaeology majors, minors and concentrators and seems to have any number of others who want to hang out with him. Debate, give-and-take and playful controversy characterize his style. He has deep caring for his students, both as co-conspirators in the educational process and as persons. Over and over students say they feel nurtured by Arthur, both in class and in informal interactions. Inventiveness is a hallmark of his teaching style. His greatest strength is his contributions resulting from his efforts in pedagogical innovation, which began with his accepting the directorship of the Integrated Studies Program. Arthur's `learning-by-doing' approach utilizes a wide-open curriculum that traverses many disciplinary boundaries. His teaching bridges technology and humanism, searching for the inclusive, the expansive, the whole picture.
He is single-handedly responsible for the development of the extraordinary performance arm of the music curriculum. Since 1973 he has set the standards of excellence in performance, demonstrating a belief in students through the demands for professionalism he has made of them and through the pride they have been able to take in their accomplishments. The Chamber Music Program which he initiated is traditionally oversubscribed and the competition to gain admission fierce. There are many superb young musicians who have chosen to come to MIT because it is the only place they can study engineering, science or math and still maintain their musicianship at a superior level. When he joined the faculty there were no chamber groups. Today, the chamber groups under his supervision, both curricular and extra-curricular, number 20 per term, with 130 students annually.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 8, 1995.