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Campaign kick-off event celebrates ideas, inspires gifts

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The MIT faculty presented research, ideas and demonstrations in a day-long event on Saturday to celebrate the launch of MIT's $1.5 billion campaign.

The campaign theme, "Calculated Risks, Creative Revolutions," also served as the theme for the presentations. The day culminated in a black-tie gala in Rockwell Cage and a spontaneous gift of $100 million to the Institute by alumnus and former faculty member, Kenan Sahin.

Mr. Sahin, who announced his gift at the dinner, characterized the series of presentations as a "wonderful day. MIT showed its intellectual prowess, deep thinking and caring."

MIT President Charles M. Vest opened "Calculated Risks, Creative Revolutions" by saying: "The world needs a new kind of leadership that we may be uniquely poised to provide. We have a distinctive culture, extraordinary faculty and students, the power to bring people and ideas and organizations together, and the ability, imagination and courage to take on the big challenges.

"The result? MIT and its graduates are a driving force for insight and innovation in fields ranging from mathematics to manufacturing, from medicine to music, from economics to architecture, from high technology to high finance. We never rest," he said.

"Calculated Risks, Creative Revolutions" was comprised of presentations by distinguished MIT faculty including, among others, Nobel prize winners Mario Molina, Phillip Sharp and Samuel Ting. The morning's keynote speech by Professor Ting was followed by two major panel discussions and concurrent sessions on topics ranging from the biological revolution to a Balinese Gamelan Workshop to the Bionic Person.

Concurrent session titles included, "A View of the Future of Our World," "The Oxygen System: Doing More by Doing Less," "Theater: What is It Doing at MIT?," "Tag Team Techies: Collective Crew Creation" and "Will the Digital Age make the Campus Obsolete?"

Professor Ting's speech, "In Search of the Origins of the Universe," summarized research resulting from collaboration among 200 scientists and 12 nations aboard the international space station. Professor Ting, who leads the collaborative effort, raised questions such as, where are the antistars and antigalaxies that prove the existence of antimatter? And, what is the universe made of?

The day's first panel, "Will the 21st Century Be Free of Major Economic Crises?" was moderated by Olivier Blanchard, Class of 1941 Professor of Economics and head of the Department of Economics. Panelists were Stanley Fischer, First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF; Paul Krugman, Ford International Professor of Economics; and Stephen Ross, the Franco Modigliani Professor of Finance and Economics. They addressed the impact of global financial and economic integration on markets, the ripple effects of crises such as the one in Asia, and whether to strengthen the IMF.

The day's final panel, moderated by Professor William Mitchell, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning and architectural advisor to President Vest, flowed easily from the afternoon panel on the 21st century. "What Is the Future of the MIT Campus?" featured comments by Laurie Olin, award-winning landscape architect, and Frank O. Gehry, the world-renowned architect who is currently designing the new Ray and Maria Stata Center.

Mr. Gehry's model for the Center, on view in the Stratton Student Center, attracted a steady stream of visitors. The Stata Center, named in honor of Ray and Maria Stata, is comprised of a complex of buildings for the computer, information and intelligence sciences. Ray Stata of the Class of 1957 is chair of MIT's Campaign. One of the buildings will be named in honor of Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr., in recognition of his generous support, and will house the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy and some portions of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Another building, to house the Laboratory for Computer Science, is to be named for William H. Gates in recognition of the generous support of the Gates Foundation toward its construction.

The concurrent presentations of faculty research kept "Calculated Risks, Creative Revolutions" moving at a brisk intellectual pace.

Mr. Sahin attended some of the concurrent sessions at the event before proceeding to the dinner at which he announced his generous gift.

He especially noted "How the Mind Works," with Professor Steven Pinker, associate professors Nancy Kanwisher and Earl Miller and assistant professor Elly Nedivi, all of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and "Towards Tricorders and the Bionic Person," with Professor Rodney Brooks, director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Ian Hunter, professor of mechanical engineering; Gill Pratt, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science; and John Wyatt Jr., professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 10, 1999.

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