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Meeting two of MIT's unsung heroes

David Dolev and Maryanne Kirkbride, unsung heroes of MIT, are two of the 2015 MIT Excellence Award recipients.
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David Dolev and Maryanne Kirkbride
David Dolev and Maryanne Kirkbride

Members of the MIT community receive their fair share of awards every year, but perhaps none as deeply personal as the MIT Excellence Awards and Collier Medal. The popular annual awards ceremony that serves to honor MIT's unsung heroes gives the community a chance to recognize colleagues for their efforts, achievements, and ingenuity. The ceremony, which takes place this year on March 11 at 3 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, includes presentation of the annual Collier Medal, honoring those whose contributions call to mind the outstanding qualities of Officer Sean Collier, who was killed in April 2013 in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Perhaps not surprising in a community as diverse and as global as MIT, many of the heroes celebrated at the MIT Excellence Awards and Collier Medal ceremony are singled out for their dedication and invention in forging connections among people. This year, two of those heroes are David Dolev and Maryanne Kirkbride. 

Recognizing David Dolev’s dream

David Dolev is the assistant director of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) and managing director of MIT-Israel. He will be honored with the Excellence Award for Advancing Inclusion and Global Perspectives in recognition of the programs he has developed that promote greater understanding across the MIT community and beyond. 

One of the characteristics that makes Dolev such a campus hero is that he is not hesitant to act on his vision for a world distinguished by a greater level of cross-cultural understanding. His inventive program MISTI 2.0 is designed to develop MIT students into dynamic leaders with a global perspective. In the MIT-Israel program, he has created opportunities for hundreds of MIT students to work and do research in Israel, a pioneer in fields like energy and the environment. In the MIT-MEET program, Dolev helps recruit and prepare MIT students to promote interaction and camaraderie between Israeli and Palestinian high-school students as they bond around a passion for new technologies.

Dolev notes that, at MIT, individuals who might be culturally inclined to look negatively upon others because of their ethnic or political backgrounds often find that the differences recede on the level playing field of MIT. “We see one another in a more authentic light outside the geographic context of our prejudices,” Dolev says. “My dream is that each of us will act upon our opportunity to be cultural interpreters.”

Believing that MIT should have a program set in the Arab world, Dolev has worked with characteristic passion and tenacity to develop and build support for the project. “MIT is lucky to have leadership like David Dolev’s,” one of his colleagues observed, “a leader who is committed and selfless and mindful of a greater purpose.”
A student of Dolev’s added a further tribute, “In the time I have known David, I have become someone who believes in my own abilities. He has avidly supported and paved the way for me in making my international project ideas into realities. It is thanks to his leadership, enthusiasm, and commitment that he has created global leaders out of so many students like me.”

Maryanne Kirkbride is a bridge-builder

Like Dolev, Maryanne Kirkbride has dedicated her energies to supporting and weaving connections within MIT’s deeply international community. As clinical director for campus life, Kirkbride acts as a liaison between MIT Medical and students, faculty, staff, and administrators across the Institute. She is proof that, at MIT, you don’t have to be a civil engineer to be a bridge builder.

“Maryanne is well connected to the MIT community,” one former student wrote in support of her nomination for an MIT Excellence Award. “She is able to bring diverse students and faculty together in discussion over shared interests to create solutions through open communication.” 

Kirkbride is being honored with a Bringing out the Best Award, which recognizes members of the community who develop trust through open, respectful communications, build consensus, and offer a vision that other members of the community are inspired to share. Kirkbride, her colleagues say, is the embodiment of those qualities. They observe that she brings out the best in the Community Wellness staff she supervises, in the many students she mentors through student health initiatives, in the students she guides as a freshman advisor, and in the alumni she supports as a lifelong friend and mentor. 

“I like to bring people together to solve problems they might not know they share,” Kirkbride says. “At MIT, we have the opportunity to be inventive, to pool our ideas and skills to achieve something remarkable.” She gives as an example the ambulance that the student-run MIT EMS designed. The state-of-the-art emergency vehicle integrates MIT innovation and knowledge as well as the deep emergency-services experience of the MIT-EMS team. Kirkbride is the MIT Medical advisor and mentor for MIT EMS, and she is deeply proud of the exceptional student team that, like the ambulance they designed, is a well-oiled machine. (MIT EMS volunteers won the Collier Medal in 2014 for their contributions to the community.)

One student noted how effectively Kirkbride manages complex teams — in particular, “her miraculous ability to harmonize differing views to synthesize a solution that balances all aspects.” He joined the chorus of students and colleagues who agreed that Maryanne Kirkbride’s contributions to the MIT community, while significant and far-reaching, often remain under the radar because of her own modesty. “Even as she has been instrumental in the success of so many people,” another alumnus wrote, “Maryanne would never take credit.”

All members of the MIT community are invited to celebrate Kirkbride, Dolev, and the 17 other individuals and teams who will be recognized at the MIT Excellence Awards and Collier Medal ceremony on Wednesday, March 11. 

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