Remarks delivered at the memorial service to honor Sean A. Collier

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

As prepared for delivery

Vice President Biden. Our many distinguished guests; elected and public officials; and academic colleagues. Our law enforcement community. And especially the Collier family.

Thank you for joining us on our campus. I speak on behalf of the community that Officer Collier gave his life to protect. The world knows that Officer Collier was killed in the line of duty.  But he had a deep, broad, beautiful sense of what his duty involved.

He made countless friends on our campus. And, as we are learning from their tributes, Officer Collier did not just have a job at MIT – he had a life here.

In just 15 months, he built a life with us that was rich in friendship and shared adventure. And he touched people across our community with his deep kindness and openhearted willingness to help, his humor and enthusiasm, his playful charm.

Chief DiFava will help us appreciate what Sean Collier meant to his fellow officers. So I will offer just a few words from some of the dozens of MIT students who have shared their stories in the last few days.

“His kindness and joy were contagious,” writes one.

“Out of uniform,” another writes, “he could have passed for a student, [he] blended so well with the geeky style of MIT.”

And a graduate student who spent late nights in a robot lab struggling over a thesis project put it this way:

“What really struck me was how interested [Sean] was in so many things. He was alive in the world in a way that is too rare… it was a big deal … to have someone coming by [my lab] with fresh eyes, full of genuine enthusiasm and curiosity about what I was doing. He even … took the opportunity to proudly show his family around campus.”

Sean Collier immersed himself in the life of our community. He loved our culture of campus “hacks” and the students who create them. Inspired by the MIT Lindy Hop, he learned to love swing dancing. With the MIT Outing Club, he learned to love hiking and camping – even in winter. Even in Newfoundland!

To prepare for their hikes, the members of the Outing Club often run the 21 flights of stairs in the one tower on our campus, the Green Building. The exercise is grueling. But Officer Collier used to run with them, up every flight – in full uniform.

On Saturday night, the windows of that same tower were illuminated in the pattern of a black ribbon in his memory.

MIT is a place that celebrates passionate curiosity. And Sean Collier fit right in.

He offered our community his service. And he served a community that he had made his own.

As a permanent expression of his place in the family of MIT, yesterday afternoon, through a unanimous vote, Sean Collier became an honorary member of the MIT Alumni Association.

He was, truly one of us.

I look out on this extraordinary audience, which includes public safety officers from hundreds of communities and institutions. And I know Sean Collier was also one of you. He was an officer doing his duty – as you would all have done in his place. We cannot express the full depth of our respect and gratitude for his service, and for yours.

To the Collier family and to all his many friends – we grieve with you. There are no words.

But I hope we can learn from Sean Collier’s example. Over the past nine days, we have seen all of Boston and Cambridge coming together as one community.

To honor his memory, let us sustain in our lives forever that same spirit of generosity and friendliness, kindness and goodwill.