Since 2014, we have started the Excellence-Awards-ceremony by remembering Sean Collier and acknowledging his enduring place on our campus. We do that by recognizing someone who embodies Sean’s commitment to the MIT community: an unsung hero who builds connections and pulls all of us closer together. No one does that more than this year’s honoree: Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education Blanche Staton.
I don’t know how many of you know Blanche or have tried to have a conversation with her in the Infinite Corridor. Let me just say that if you want to have a quick hallway chat with Blanche,… good luck. Because Blanche knows everyone. It is the rare student, faculty or staff colleague who can pass her in the Infinite without saying “hi” or wanting to follow up on a recent conversation.
And, of course, Blanche wants to check in with everyone rushing past her, headed off to class or a meeting. Blanche calls them her “peeps.” Let me tell you: Being one of Blanche’s “peeps” may be the highest honor at MIT.The students and colleagues who nominated Blanche for the Collier Medal wrote that their lives are better because of her. If you ask me, all of MIT is better because of her. Blanche’s humanity, her kindness and her dedication have shaped our community over the last 20 years.
As dean, she supports more than six thousand seven hundred master’s and doctoral students …as well as special students, visiting students and those in professional programs. They may not all know it, but Blanche’s fingerprints are all over their MIT experience. And all of us – students, faculty, staff… and this President – are deeply grateful for her service.
According to one of her nominators, Blanche is “the Dean of Deans, leading with a deep sense of wisdom, empathy and integrity. Her dedication to every student’s ability to thrive is boundless and enhances everything she undertakes."
“Blanche Staton sets the standard.”
A member of the faculty wrote, “Blanche is the embodiment of a hug. She is warm, compassionate and always there when you need her. She always makes time in her schedule to meet with faculty who are trying to help vulnerable students. It’s a balm for my soul to know that whatever happens in my office, Blanche is in hers.”
As someone who is fortunate enough to have been on the receiving end of a Blanche Staton hug, I could not agree more. If we had another four or five hours, I might do justice to the ocean of praise in Blanche’s nomination materials. Contributors used phrases like “generosity of spirit,” “immense well of knowledge,” “joyous approach” and “incredible talent” to describe what Blanche means to them. One even suggested that Blanche has a “super power” to say the right thing in moments of crisis.
Please join me in honoring the winner of the Collier Medal for 2018: MIT’s super hero, Senior Associate Dean Blanche Staton.