Lobby 10, an area below MIT’s Great Dome that has long been a gathering place and site of spontaneous performances, will soon receive a new official designation: On Nov. 18, it will be renamed “Memorial Lobby” in commemoration of MIT alumni who have given their lives in wartime as members of the military services.
The lobby’s walls already bear engraved memorials listing MIT alumni who gave their lives in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The lobby is also the site, once a year, of a 24-hour silent vigil by members of MIT’s ROTC programs. Last year, the inscriptions on the walls were restored and regilded, making them much easier to read.
Several faculty members, students, and organizations have been advocating for the renaming of the lobby for at least two years.
“We wanted to find something to recognize the soldiers who have been past MIT students,” says MIT ROTC Oversight Committee member Ronald Ballinger, a professor of nuclear science and engineering and materials science and engineering who served in the Navy from 1965 to 1972. But while the idea of renaming Lobby 10 had been discussed for some time, he says, the real spur to action came from the students. “Both the undergraduate and graduate members [of the committee] took the bull by the horns,” he says. Credit for the initiative “goes to them, not to us,” he says.
The MIT ROTC Oversight Committee’s proposal then moved to Daniel Hastings, the Cecil and Ida Green Education Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems and then the dean of undergraduate education, to whom the ROTC programs report. “Once they brought the idea of renaming Lobby 10, I supported it strongly,” Hastings says. “I think the renaming honors the sacrifices that our MIT graduates have made to the country, and MIT can be proud of all that they and MIT have done to serve the country.”
Final approval of the decision to rename the lobby came from MIT President L. Rafael Reif and the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation.
Eric Victor, a graduate student in chemistry who served on the MIT ROTC Oversight Committee and who was one of those who pushed for the renaming, wrote a column last year for MIT’s student newspaper, The Tech, advocating the idea. “It seems like it’s important to recognize that particular place on campus” as a memorial to those who served and sacrificed, he says.
Victor, who served two tours of duty in Iraq before coming to MIT, says even though the lobby’s walls already carry memorial inscriptions, he feels the official recognition makes a difference in “recognizing those who serve after they get their education here.” It demonstrates, he says, that the MIT community “still cares about veterans.”
Forty-two current MIT students — two undergraduates and 40 graduate students — are veterans. An additional 53 MIT undergraduates are in ROTC programs, and 55 graduate students are currently in military programs.
The formal dedication will be made at a Nov. 18 ceremony featuring a mixed honor guard of MIT ROTC cadets and MIT Police officers. Ballinger and Victor will speak, as will fellow veterans Phillip Clay, the Class of 1922 Professor of Urban Studies and Planning; John Reed, chairman of the MIT Corporation; and DiOnetta Jones Crayton, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education. The ceremony, set for 5 p.m., will also feature performances by the MIT Chorallaries and brass ensemble. Institute Chaplain Robert Randolph will give the benediction.
The dedication ceremony will be followed by a reception in the newly renamed Memorial Lobby.