In 1870, just nine years after the founding of MIT, the first international student arrived at the Institute; he was from Japan.
Over time, MIT has become an increasingly international organization. The partnership between the East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and MIT, which was founded in 1991, is one example of how international relationships strengthen research in Cambridge and abroad.
On March 2, MIT and JR East celebrated 25 years of their partnership and honored JR East Professor Joseph Sussman, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), who has held the title for the entirety of the partnership thus far.
“The greatest honor in my professional career has been to serve as the first JR East Professor and for 25 years of my career,” Sussman said. “I served, before my retirement, as an MIT professor for 50 years, so exactly half of my stay on the faculty was as JR East Professor. It’s something in which I take terrific pride.”
Over the past 25 years, Sussman has mentored many professionals from JR East. Additionally, staff members from JR East have studied and earned degrees from various departments at MIT, and interns from MIT have spent time working at JR East. Currently, JR East plans to use market selection processes, researched in Sussman’s Regional Transportation Planning and High-Speed Rail Research Group, in Asia.
Masaki Ogata, vice chair of JR East, gave an overview of the partnership and thanked Sussman for his work with JR East. “We deeply appreciate JR East Professor Sussman. Thank you for your generous longtime support to keep and strengthen this great relationship between both organizations,” Ogata said.
The JR-East professorship was recently awarded to Ali Jadbabaie, a professor of CEE as well as associate director of IDSS. Jadbabaie came to MIT in fall 2016.
“I want to thank Joe for his continued support,” Jadbabaie said. “He’s been a great role model for me, and if I could be half as successful as he has been, I’d be quite happy.”
“Joe has been a tremendous colleague and leader in CEE, and his career has inspired many students and faculty. The department has benefitted in many ways from Joe’s exceptional contributions in research, education and service, including his tenure as CEE department head in the 1980s” said Markus Buehler, head of CEE and the McAfee Professor of Engineering. “What I find most inspiring is Joe’s deep commitment to students, and he would rarely miss any department event that offers an opportunity to build the community and make us stronger together.”
Representatives from both MIT and JR East reflected fondly on the partnership’s success and mentioned their hopes for the future of the JR East-MIT collaboration.
“We hope that the partnership with JR East will continue for another 25 years with the same success that it has had until now,” said Richard K. Lester, MIT associate provost and the Japan Steel Industry Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering. “Both MIT and JR East will be very different in 25 years, but I have no doubt that collaborations and partnerships will be every bit as important to us then as they are now.”