This Wednesday at noon, MIT will host a memorial service honoring the late Sean Collier, President L. Rafael Reif announced Monday morning in an email to the MIT community. The event will only be open to the MIT community and to law enforcement officers from across the nation.
Top state and federal officials have been invited to the event. The White House confirmed Monday evening that Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will attend the service; other dignitaries including Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren are expected to attend.
Biden, Reif, MIT Police Chief John DiFava, and a member of Collier’s family, among others, are expected to speak at the Wednesday memorial service.
The event, which will be held on Briggs Field and is expected to draw up to 10,000 attendees, will follow a private memorial service and funeral in Wilmington, Mass., for Collier, the MIT Police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty on Thursday evening.
"We grieve with his family, his many friends and his fellow MIT police officers," Reif wrote in his Monday letter. "Many at MIT knew and loved Officer Sean Collier; for those who didn't, he was someone we could all wish to have had the opportunity to know."
Because the event will draw representatives of police forces nationwide, it will likely cause major disruptions to activities on West Campus (see related story). The Massachusetts State Police and Cambridge Police Department will provide backup security for the event and elsewhere on campus that day.
Police ‘embraced by warm wishes wherever we go’
“The outpouring of support from the MIT community has been overwhelming,” DiFava said. “The MIT Police are being embraced by warm wishes wherever we go, and we truly appreciate it. It’s hard for me to express how meaningful this is to us.”
DiFava noted that the MIT Police have now created a website where people can offer their condolences.
In addition to Wednesday’s event, the Institute also expects to hold a second, more intimate memorial service for Collier in early May. Details on that event will be announced as they become available.
Beyond these Institute-wide commemorations, a number of student groups are also planning events to honor Collier’s memory. The young officer was heavily involved with two student-led groups on campus: the MIT Outing Club and MIT-EMS, the Institute’s ambulance service.
DiFava said that Collier’s death is currently the subject of an investigation by the Middlesex County District Attorney; for that reason, MIT will not discuss the circumstances of the crime in detail. However, MIT can confirm that Collier was shot while sitting in his MIT police cruiser on campus, just inside the corner of Main and Vassar streets. Authorities now believe that this crime was committed by one or both of the two men who have since been named as the prime suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings. One of those men is now dead; the other is in custody.
Two recipients for memorial gifts
In his letter to the community, Reif identified two ways in which gifts may be made in Collier’s memory. The Institute will create a Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund that will support a Collier Medal — to be awarded to individuals who demonstrate Collier’s values — and other causes. Reif noted in his letter that members of the MIT faculty are welcome to make donations to the Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund from their discretionary funds.
Additionally, Collier’s family has indicated that memorial gifts may be made to The Jimmy Fund; Collier was a longtime supporter of this organization, which supports cancer research and care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Community urged to support MIT Police
In an email sent Sunday to the entire MIT faculty, Sam Allen, the POSCO Professor of Metallurgy and chair of the faculty, urged professors to show their appreciation for the MIT Police. Citing a suggestion from Paul Lagace, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems, Allen encouraged his colleagues to thank any officers they encounter in the coming weeks.
“I am sure that every gesture of appreciation you make will help ease the sense of loss that all who knew Officer Collier are feeling,” Allen wrote. “This will not only provide comfort to an individual, but also continue to strengthen the Institute’s sense of community and bring us closer to the ideal of ‘One MIT.’”
In his letter to the community this morning, Reif echoed those sentiments, encouraging not only faculty, but also MIT students and employees to show their appreciation for MIT’s police force.
“In the coming days, we will come together to mourn Officer Collier and to support his family and friends,” the president wrote. “In the meantime, we also have the opportunity to recognize the service of his fellow MIT Police officers, who continue to protect the peace of our campus through this acute moment of grief. I encourage you to let them know in person how much we appreciate their service.”