On the evening of May 28, Institute and School of Science leaders joined faculty and invited guests to formally celebrate Emeritus Professor Peter H. Stone and Professor Paola Malanotte (Stone) Rizzoli’s generous endowment of a new professorship in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).
President and Mrs. Reif, School of Science Dean Michael Sipser, former dean Marc Kastner and his wife, and Vice President of Research and former EAPS head Maria Zuber joined Rob van der Hilst and EAPS faculty and friends at a reception to honor Stone and Rizzoli. The catered reception, enhanced with music performed by a string quartet of MIT musicians, was held in the Ida Green Lounge with views of the sunset over North Campus.
MIT President L. Rafael Reif lauded Stone and Rizzoli's combined 77 years of service to the Institute as “scientists and educators, leaders and citizens,” reminding guests in particular of Stone’s leadership of the former Department of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, and subsequent leadership of the Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography. He noted Stone’s significant scientific contributions as a thought leader in the field of climate and global warming, responsible for “seminal papers on the prediction of global warming scenarios well before the issue appeared on the front pages of our newspapers.”
Turning to Rizzoli, Reif called out her “tireless efforts to level the playing field at MIT” through her role in the Institute’s study and report on the status of women faculty in the schools of Science and Engineering. He acknowledged, too, having the pleasure of working closely with Rizzoli on the search committee that brought MIT its 16th and, “perhaps not so coincidentally,” its first female president, Susan Hockfield. “Paola's energy, her passion, her logic, and her humor drove both those endeavors to outstanding outcomes,” Reif said.
As a token of MIT’s appreciation for the Stones' gift of the Peter H. Stone and Paola Malanotte Stone Professorship, Reif presented the couple with “another kind of irreplaceable stone,” a piece of MIT's original 1916 Great Dome, removed during the 2010 restoration. Reif hoped Stone and Rizzoli would cherish it “as a permanent symbol of MIT's strength and aspirations, and deep gratitude for all that you both have given.”
Sipser then spoke in more detail about Stone and Rizzoli’s scientific accomplishments, reminding those present that, in addition to his many honors in meteorology and atmospheric sciences, Stone served on several NASA projects and spent time at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He was a member of the Pioneer Venus Orbiter science team, and the Galileo science team, work that brought him NASA achievement awards in 1980 and 1996.
Sipser called out Rizzoli’s service as director of the MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, and more recent involvement in the Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Program. “Peter and Paola represent the very best about EAPS and about Science at MIT. They have worked across disciplines and made contributions in several scientific fields all while serving the Institute in various key leadership positions,” Sipser concluded.
Further warm tributes were made throughout the evening by Rob van der Hilst, Marc Kastner, Ron Prinn and Rick Binzel, concluding with a violin solo performed by Christine Binzel.
In their response, Rizzoli emphasized that, “The chair is really Peter's gift”, adding “It is a gift that we have thought about for a long time. My major contribution was just to say to Peter, 'Do it now!'”
With poise, and to the great delight of all present, it fell to Stone to give the evening’s capstone speech. “I want to thank you all for this great thing. I am happy. I love MIT.”