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An annual tradition: celebrating MIT's excellent staff

19 individuals, 3 teams to be honored at Excellence Awards on March 1.

What does the director of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender services (LBGT@MIT) have in common with the regional coordinator of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl and the senior optician at MIT Medical? All are being recognized for the far-reaching impact of their work at the 2011 MIT Excellence Awards.

In total, 19 individuals and three teams will be honored March 1 at the 2011 MIT Excellence Awards, a ceremony held each year to honor staff members who fulfill the goals, values and mission of the Institute through their extraordinary work at MIT. President Susan Hockfield will preside.

Video from the 2011 Excellence Awards ceremony
Video: Institute Events/AMPS

The director of LBGT@MIT, Abigail Francis, will receive an award for Fostering Diversity and Inclusion: maximizing MIT’s strengths. Francis supports a large and diverse community by providing organizational assistance, sensitivity training and emotional support. “She’s taken care of us very well. I think of her as a second mom,” said chemical engineering senior Joubert Glover, the president of MIT’s undergraduate LBGT organization, GaMIT.

“I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving.” said Heidy Gonzalez, coordinator of Women’s and Gender Studies, who, like Glover, supported Francis’ award nomination. “With the LBGT population, there are so many stories that people never hear, [such as] people coming out and losing financial support from their parents. She’s the one who’s there with them, helping them through it.”

Glover said he considers the award a “thank you” from students like himself who have gained so much from Francis. “Also, it shows where LBGT at MIT is as a culture,” he said. Recognizing Francis “can help diversity grow at MIT.”

In addition to Fostering Diversity and Inclusion, awards will be presented in five other categories: Serving the Client: providing consistent and exceptional service; Unsung Hero: working behind the scenes; Innovative Solutions: collaborating for results; Bringing Out the Best: everyday leadership throughout MIT; and Greening MIT: protecting our planet.

A winner in the Innovative Solutions category, Jordan Lewis organized a national academic competition for high school students in marine sciences. Brandy M. M. Wilbur, an education consultant for the MIT Sea Grant College Program, said she nominated Lewis because, “I don’t think people recognized the broad impact he was having,” she said. “We impact 3,000 people nationally. The scope was much larger than MIT.”

Lewis led an initiative that developed software to transition the National Ocean Sciences Bowl away from paper-heavy processes. The software is now required at all the bowl sites, saving more than 500,000 sheets of paper each year. “The positive environmental impact of this software is huge,” Wilbur said.

Roger Proulx is also being recognized for the broad impact of his work. An optician at MIT Medical, Proulx will receive a Serving the Client Award. “Everybody more or less is in Roger’s office at one time or another,” said his nominator, Professor Janet Sonenberg, who heads the Music and Theater Arts Section. “And he is unswerving in his dedication to our satisfaction and comfort.”

Sonenberg noted that the MIT community is a big group with very specialized eye-care needs. “While we may not all be fussy about our physiques, we are incredibly fussy about our vision,” she said, noting that she herself once asked Proulx to make her a prescription snorkeling mask. “We want our vision to be perfect, [and] Roger understands us.”

Indeed, as the MIT community is about to acknowledge, he’s “excellent.”

All members of the MIT community are encouraged to join in honoring Proulx, Lewis, Francis, and the rest of this year’s winners at the MIT Excellence Awards ceremony at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1, in Kresge Auditorium. A reception will follow.

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