When a member of faculty decides to make a major gift in support of his or her home department, it sends a powerful message and demonstrates a serious commitment and vote of confidence in MIT’s School of Science. Recently, Professor Stephen Buchwald and his wife Susan Haber established the Buchwald-Haber Family Fund with a pledge of $100,000 to support graduate students studying organic chemistry. EAPS Professor Paola Malanotte (Stone) Rizzoli and her husband Professor Emeritus Peter Stone endowed the Stone Professorship Fund in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) – the first new full professorship for EAPS in many years.
According to Rizzoli, the three greatest discoveries of the last century have been relativity, quantum theory, and chaos theory. Her Ph.D. thesis in physical oceanography investigated nonlinear coherent structures such as Gulf Stream rings in the ocean and hurricanes in the atmosphere. Her research was motivated by the work of MIT’s Ed Lorenz, the founder of chaos theory. According to Rizzoli, “Ed Lorenz was my God,” so when he asked her to join the MIT faculty, she left her beloved Venice and settled into academic life in Cambridge. When she joined MIT, Rizzoli was one of only six women in the physical oceanography field in the whole United States and Canada. Peter Stone followed Ed Lorenz as Head of the Meteorology Department. Rizzoli said, “He came from an illustrious family (Peter’s grandfather was first the Dean of Law School at Columbia University and later was appointed Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court by President Frankin D. Roosevelt).” They began their courtship in 1986 but maintained secrecy. “No one knew we were dating; our meetings were very discrete because I didn’t want anyone to think that if I got tenure it was because of the relationship. As our friends said ‘it was a match made in heaven,’ as I studied the oceans and Peter the atmosphere.”
Stone had been talking for years about making a gift to the department to establish a new professorship and intended to leave the money in his estate. “Peter didn’t care about public acknowledgement, but I wanted people to give him all the recognition he deserved.” Rizzoli explained that it took a lot of time to convince her husband to make the gift now, during his lifetime. She added, “He can be as stubborn as a stone!”
The celebration of this tremendous gift took place in the Ida Green Lounge on the ninth floor of the Green Building. Joining the festivities were President Rafael Reif, former Dean of the School of Science, Marc Kastner, VP for Research, Maria Zuber, Dean Michael Sipser, EAPS Department Head, Robert van der Hilst and many other members of MIT’s faculty. Stone, who suffered a stroke in 2009, delighted those present by saying, “I want to thank you all. I am happy. I love MIT!”
Stephen L. Buchwald, the Camille Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry, has had quite a year. In addition to being named the 2016 William H. Nichols Medalist and honored with the University College Dublin Ulysses Medal, he was recognized in June at a ceremony in Madrid, Spain with the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Basic Science. The BBVA award came with a significant cash prize and it was that which prompted Buchwald and his wife, Susan Haber, to establish the Buchwald-Haber Family Fund with a gift of $100,000. The endowed fund will support graduate students in the Department of Chemistry, with a preference for those studying organic chemistry.
Buchwald feels that MIT and the Chemistry Department were instrumental to his success. “The key,” he said, “without doubt, has been the exceptional quality of the graduate students. I get to hang out with really smart people who don’t get any older–even if I do!”
Buchwald and Haber have always been philanthropic, allocating a percentage of their income to various organizations whose missions they feel passionate about. The Buchwald-Haber Fund was established to recognize the outstanding efforts of the Department of Chemistry’s graduate students, and Buchwald hopes that in some small way this gesture will symbolize his gratitude. Buchwald joined MIT as an Assistant Professor of chemistry in 1984. “Those were scary times,” he recalled. “You don’t know anything and you can’t really do anything.” Clearly he surmounted those challenges, and in 1989 was promoted to Associate Professor and to full Professor in 1993. In 1997, he was named the Camille Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry. Buchwald’s research combines organic synthesis, physical organic chemistry, and organometallic chemistry. His team develops useful catalytic processes.
According to the BBVA Foundation citation: “The chemistry enabled by Steve Buchwald’s achievements is now being applied to the creation of drugs for numerous diseases, including many forms of cancer, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, and diabetes.” As far as Buchwald is concerned, he is thrilled to know his work is contributing to drugs that will ultimately help many people.