Establishing the Marc A. Kastner Fellowship
In addition to being a brilliant, creative scientist who has mentored graduates and postdocs, Kastner has proven himself “a highly effective, no-nonsense academic leader and first-class MIT citizen,” as described by President Reif. At the January event celebrating Kastner’s accomplishments and service to MIT, Reif announced the creation of the Marc A. Kastner Fellowship in the School of Science. At that time, the fund had over $400,000 in pledges; at press time, the Kastner Fellowship fund has raised $527,500. With the continued help of our alumni and friends, the fund will be well on its way to the $1 million goal necessary for the fellowship to be fully endowed.
George Elbaum ’59 (XVI), S.M. ’63 (XVI), Ph.D. ’67 (XXII) and wife Mimi Jensen were enthusiastic supporters of this effort to honor Kastner. When asked why, Elbaum responded, “I have always been very impressed with Marc’s wonderful ability to be persuasive without appearing so, i.e., leadership that appears soft yet is strong where and when it needs to be. And the other thing that has always struck me about Marc is his inclination to redirect compliments to his subordinates. Academia needs more Marcs.” (Academia also needs more George Elbaums.) The Patrons of Physics Fellows, which recognizes donors who support graduate students in the Department of Physics, was established with a generous challenge from Elbaum and Jensen who, in addition their support of the Marc A. Kastner Fellowship, support the Whiteman Fellows. Since they were created, more than 60 students have been supported by Whiteman Fellowships.
I felt that helping to establish the Marc A. Kastner Fellowship was the way to honor Marc for his many years of outstanding service to the Institute that would simultaneously serve one of his highest goals for years to come. -Tom Frank
Jim ’63 (VI) and Pat Poitras were also early contributors to the fund. They have served on the Dean’s Advisory Council and continue to serve on the Board of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Jim Poitras said his experience “with both the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Visiting Committee and the McGovern Board allowed me to see first-hand how well Marc and the School of Science worked with these groups. The interaction was always collegial, disagreement always professional, and support for each other obvious.” Previous to their support for the Kastner Fellowship, in 2007 the Poitras’s established the Poitras Center for Affective Disorders Research with a primary goal of understanding bipolar disease and depression, as well as other psychiatric disorders. Additionally, they established the Poitras Professorship for Neuroscience currently held by Professor Guoping Feng.
Another major donor to this fund is physics alumnus Tom Frank ’77 (VIII), Ph.D. ’85 (VIII). Although Frank has been a generous and consistent donor to MIT since his student days, he became a major donor in support of fellowships “when Marc told me that, as Head of the department, it was his highest priority. As years went by I became inspired by his leadership, the generosity and dedication of the many other fellowship donors, and not least, the motivation and quality of the students. I felt that helping to establish the Marc A. Kastner Fellowship was the way to honor Marc for his many years of outstanding service to the Institute that would simultaneously serve one of his highest goals for years to come.”
At his hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Kastner reiterated his long held belief that “our quality of life, the health of our economy, the strength of our national defense, and the security of our energy future all stem from discoveries in basic science.” As Dean of the School of Science, Kastner would tell alumni and friends that the best way they could support basic science at MIT was to support our graduate students with a fellowship. It is therefore most fitting we celebrate Marc Kastner and his many accomplishments with a fellowship in his name that will live on at MIT in perpetuity. Mike Sipser, former Head of MIT’s Math Department and the new Dean of Science, would love to see the Marc A. Kastner Fellowship fully funded. “Marc has been a great friend and mentor to me for many years at MIT. This fellowship in his name is such an apt way to honor a most cherished professor, colleague, and friend. I encourage those of you who have the interest and capacity to be part of this effort to write the biggest check you can.”
I was once a graduate student in the sciences myself. Call me biased, but I believe that the lifeblood of groundbreaking science discovery is graduate fellowships. -John Seo
John ’88 (VIII) and Stella Seo – who not only have three children currently matriculating at MIT, but have also hosted the summer student sendoffs at their Westport, Connecticut home for the last two years – are the latest contributors to the fund.
John Seo said, “This fund combines three things that I love. First of all, I am a big fan of Marc Kastner. He has great heart, like so many MIT faculty, but in addition, Marc understands what it takes to make science research happen at both the personal and institutional level better than any person that I know. Second, I was once a graduate student in the sciences myself. Call me biased, but I believe that the lifeblood of groundbreaking science discovery is graduate fellowships. The third thing that I love about this fund is perhaps less obvious: I have always wanted to see more endowed funds named after MIT faculty. On a personal level, when I think of MIT, what most often comes to mind are the names of MIT faculty, both past and present – the names of those who have inspired me and continue to inspire me to be a thinker and a pioneer in my own way, the MIT way.”
When the first student is awarded the Marc A. Kastner Fellowship, MIT will celebrate. Join the celebration by making a gift or a pledge in support of this fund, and help us reach the $1 million goal to make this fellowship fully endowed.
We’d like to thank our other lead donors to this fellowship, including Frank ’84 (VIII) and Ruta Laukien, Alexander Belopolsky Ph.D. ’96 (VIII D) and Natalia Sergeenko, Curt ’63 (VI) and Kathy Marble, and Alan ’73 (XV), S.M. ’73 (XV) and Terri Spoon.