For faculty, a special thank-you

December 17, 2020

Dear faculty colleagues,

In a year when a grocery run or a haircut has been a minor ordeal, asking that you continue to “advance knowledge and educate students” while “working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges....for the betterment of humankind” feels like asking too much. 

Yet over the past 10 months, despite your own struggles and with remarkable kindness, creativity, fortitude and grace, you have sustained MIT’s great mission anyway, including helping the world fight this pandemic.

So I write now in thanks for all of this, and for everything elseyou have done, from leading us back to a Covid-safe campus, to reinventing how you teach, to caring for your lab communities, to imagining a new future for the Institute, to helping our far-flung students feel that they are still part of MIT. 

And I offer a special measure of recognition and respect for those who, in addition, have been caring for family members, including those in the excruciating bind of trying to excel in an MIT career while feeding, entertaining and teaching young children trapped at home.

This year of loss and hardship brought unexpected and highly welcome surprises. One is that holding our faculty meetings online increased the average attendance by (unscientifically) 400%. Until we can be together in more satisfying ways, I have found it a wonderful lift to see and hear from so many of you, and to be reminded that, out there somewhere in three dimensions, the brilliant spirit of MIT still thrives.

I am also glad that we have been able to share a bit more of our lives with each other, including the unpredictable on-screen glimpses of children and family pets who doggedly insist that we remember what matters most. I hope the year to come still hums with this renewed sense of care and connectedness.

At MIT, we are good at a lot of things – but resting is not one of them. Surely, we can learn to do this too! I urge you all to rise to the challenge: May the last week of December allow each and all of us the time and space for a real rest from all things MIT.

With sincere and deep admiration and gratitude,