"Our three-day 10th anniversary celebration almost felt like a wedding with lots of long-lost friends, fun and food," said Ellen Essigmann, who serves as a Simmons Hall Housemaster along with her husband, John Essigmann. "The turnout was amazing: we exceeded 80 people at our Friday event and 150 at both the Boston Harbor cruise and our Sunday brunch."
The celebration was open to current residents and past "Sims" (another name for Simmons residents) and encouraged networking and story sharing throughout the weekend. From the planned events to the unveiling of Simmons Hall's newest art piece, the weekend showcased the fact that the community is prospering and growing.
President Reif takes part in the Simmons celebration
MIT President L. Rafael Reif joined Simmons Hall residents on the night before their celebratory weekend. The president enjoyed a meal in the Simmons dining hall where he interacted with students, played a friendly game of ping pong and was able to view student artwork in the building.
"As the Area Director for Simmons Hall, it was a pleasure to see the genuine passion and excitement that the students shared with President Reif," said Joshua Gonzalez. "They talked about residential life at Simmons, discussed ideas on how to build community and connected as members of the MIT campus."
The celebration continues…
The anniversary weekend was split into three main events and residents and alumni were encouraged to register ahead of time to reserve their spot. Friday night's event started with a dinner in the Simmons dining hall as students shed their backpacks and homework to connect with alumni, who were excited to share their fond memories. "I haven't been back in a while and this place holds a special place in my heart," said David Nedzel, a Simmons resident from 2003-2007 and a former Simmons president. "I'm excited to see friends I haven't seen in a while. They've changed, but the building looks almost the same as I remember it."
After the Friday night dinner, nearly 80 attendees listened to a presentation that traced the relationship between the 1998 Task Force on Student Life and Learning report and the actual creation of Simmons Hall. Several books were on display in the building lobby detailing the work of the building's designer, Steven Holl.
On Saturday, past and present Sims enjoyed a four-hour Boston Harbor Cruise. According to the Housemasters, more than 150 students, alumni and their guests enjoyed the boat cruise while sharing stories about the building that they all called home. The Sunday morning brunch was complete with linens and balloons to properly conclude the weekend's celebrations. The brunch also featured a guest speaker, John Thompson, who was a structural engineer for the Simmons Hall construction project.
Making their mark
In honor of the Simmons 10th anniversary, a stunning piece of artwork was installed and hangs proudly on the west wall of the Simmons dining hall. Composed of 12 Samsung LED displays, the 144" paneled piece was constructed to represent the shape of Simmons Hall.
Cosmos Darwin, a sophomore and Simmons resident who originally came up with the artwork plan, explained the process of thinking, creating and implementing the piece in time for the anniversary weekend. "I wanted to come up with something interesting for the west wall in the dining hall, so early on, I got the idea that whatever it was should share the building's iconic shape. After speaking with other Simmons residents, I started to think that perhaps the piece, beyond being visually and symbolically interesting itself, should actually serve as a showcase for other ingenious and interesting ideas as well. And so that's precisely what the display does — it enables the deployment of new and creative ideas by the whole community."
The piece replaced an interpretive diagram of the infinite corridor that originally hung on the wall until it fell and was unable to be put together again. The creator of the diagram, former Simmons resident Nikki Johnson Springer, '04 attended the weekend's events and was pleased to see that students were still creating and displaying their art. "I wanted other students to follow my example because there are a lot of big blank walls in the building where students can really make the building their own," said Springer. "I encourage students to look at the space around them to see what they can do with it. They should look at the building as their home and contribute to personalizing it."
Cosmos Darwin along with fellow residents and key contributors to the project, Drew Dennison, Alex Chernyakovsky, Sean Karson, Will Oursler, Tim Wilczynski and Luke O'Malley, hope to push the piece to the next level and create an interactive cross-section of the building where users can use their mobile devices to post statuses on the display in real time. "Everyone, especially our Housemasters, John and Ellen, were so enthusiastic," said Darwin. "The Housemasters and dorm staff were behind us every step of the way and I can't say enough good things about the people at Simmons, or about the folks at MIT Facilities and Housing."
The LED screen display will be permanently stationed in the Simmons dining hall as a lasting piece of the residence hall's 10th anniversary. The weekend celebrations not only commemorated everything that Simmons Hall has become in the past ten years, but it also brought together residents, staff and alumni to ensure that the community will remain strong in the years to come.