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Excellence Awards go to MIT's finest; ceremony March 1

Officer David O'Connor and Sgt. Cheryl Vossmer of the MIT Police are among 19 individuals and teams that will be honored March 1 with MIT Excellence Awards.
Officer David O'Connor and Sgt. Cheryl Vossmer of the MIT Police are among 19 individuals and teams that will be honored March 1 with MIT Excellence Awards.
Photo / Donna Coveney

Two of MIT's finest, members of the MIT Police, will be among the 19 individuals and teams honored with MIT Excellence Awards on March 1.

Sgt. Cheryl Vossmer, an 18-year veteran of the police department, will be honored in the Creating Connections category. Officer David O'Connor, the Stata Center's community police officer, is being recognized in the Innovative Solutions category.

The annual Excellence Awards, part of MIT's Rewards and Recognition program, acknowledge innovation, leadership, collaboration, dedication, outreach, inclusiveness, service and results. The program is designed to recognize individuals and teams for their exceptional contributions to their office, department or school -- or to the Institute as a whole.

Vossmer, who is in charge of the police department's community policing program, is probably the most well-known member of the department, said John DiFava, director of security and campus police services.

"She's a legend on campus. Everyone knows Cheryl," DiFava said.

Vossmer was nominated by three graduate students, who praised her dedication, availability and efforts to reach out to students with such programs as safety-awareness lectures, self-defense training and theft prevention initiatives.

Ali Motamedi, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, said he met Vossmer during his first week at MIT. Vossmer, evidently sensing that Motamedi was feeling stressed, approached him and struck up a conversation.

"Needless to say that after our conversation, which ended up in many jokes and laughter, I felt considerably happier, more comfortable and at ease dealing with my issues," Motamedi wrote in his nomination letter.

"Cheryl has always been a particularly sensitive and dedicated ambassador of the (MIT) Police," wrote Sylvain Bruni, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics, who also nominated Vossmer. "Cheryl is, to me, the face of the police on campus, and has undoubtedly largely contributed to bringing communities together."

Known as "Doc" around the Stata, O'Connor has been at MIT since 2002. He has been permanently assigned to the Stata Center since it opened in 2004.

"He has been able to bring people together and to solve problems before they become problems," DiFava said. "Everyone knows Doc, and they know if they e-mail him or go see him, they're going to get an answer."

Lt. Albert Pierce, who nominated O'Connor, wrote, "Dave has gained the respect and admiration not only of his peers but campuswide to include faculty, staff and students."

DiFava praised Vossmer and O'Connor as officers who are accomplishing the mission he has set for the MIT Police -- to serve and reach out to the MIT community.

"My philosophy is that we are here to serve the community and provide an environment where people can do their research and do their studies, without interference from the wrong segments of society," DiFava said.

The Excellence Awards ceremony will be held March 1 in Kresge Auditorium, with opening remarks from President Susan Hockfield and a keynote address from Alice Gast, vice president for research. Refreshments will be served beginning at 11:30 a.m., and the awards presentation will start at noon, followed by a reception at 1 p.m.

For a complete list of the Excellence Awards recipients, visit

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 15, 2006 (download PDF).

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