With an energetic jazz quartet providing the background noise, hundreds of students, faculty and staff streamed into the Stratton Student Center on the afternoon of Dec. 6 to welcome President Susan Hockfield on her first official day.
Some waited up to an hour in a line that at times snaked halfway around the balcony of the second floor, to get the chance to shake President Hockfield's hand and say a few words of greeting.
"I just wanted the chance to welcome her to MIT," said Krishnan Sriram, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering who waited in line for a half-hour to speak with Hockfield. "I'd like to get to know her a little and hopefully be able to talk to her in the future sometime about things that are important to graduate students," said Sriram, who is involved with the Graduate Student Council.
Monday, Dec. 6 was the new president's first day in office. The former Yale provost and noted neuroscientist was elected to the MIT presidency on Aug. 26.
The order of the afternoon was festive. People laughed and chatted as the Mark Greel Band played Latin-tinged jazz, the sound pumping throughout the Student Center via large speakers on every floor. On the first floor, blue and red flowers and bunches of strategically placed blue balloons added to the party atmosphere.
"People are happy and excited to meet this new president," said Beth O'Sullivan (S.B. 1975), founder of the Science Club for Girls, a Cambridge-based non-profit that brings women scientists and local public school girls together in after-school science clubs focused on science and technical skills. O'Sullivan wanted an opportunity to introduce Hockfield to the program. "I came out today because I just have enormous respect for her and I am hoping to increase our group's involvement with MIT," O'Sullivan said.
Surrounded by dozens of people, Hockfield received well-wishers in the Catherine Stratton Lounge on the second floor for two hours, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Midway through the afternoon, she was serenaded by the Logarhythms, an all-male a cappella group known for their songs--and their stunts.
Smiling groups of undergraduates posed for pictures with Tim the Beaver, while noshing on the cheese, breads, cookies, brownies, chocolates and soda that were placed on multi-tiered tables scattered throughout each floor.
Tamarleigh Lippegrenfell, publications editor in the Materials Processing Center, said she came out Monday to represent her department. "I guess I just wanted to put the name of our center out there," said Lippegrenfell, as she waited in line for her chance to greet Hockfield.
Lippegrenfell said she liked Hockfield instantly after seeing a photograph of the new president with her family on Aug 26. "Her family looked like such a happy group," she said. "This really is such a great step for the Institution."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 8, 2004 (download PDF).