MIT Leadership Center

Sean Collier Memorial

Many will recall that in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, the terrorists responsible for that act also took the life of an MIT police officer, Sean Collier. The grief of the community that knew and loved him soon turned to resolve to honor his memory. J. Meejin Yoon, head of MIT’s Department of Architecture, designed a memorial to honor Collier’s love of the outdoors and spirit of service – but it also deeply reflected and involved the community he chose to serve. Making its massive interlocking granite pieces stand would require a technical feat that would push the envelope of engineering. The multidisciplinary group required to complete the project included faculty, students, and staff with expertise in architecture, construction, engineering, and masonry – and consulting experts in structural and civil engineering, landscape architecture, and lighting design.

Yet combining all those minds and hands didn’t bog the project down. To the contrary, an effort that should by rights have taken three years was accomplished in just one. Throughout 2015, people engaged fluidly in the “stepping up and stepping out” process we described earlier, and effectively dealt with sticking points that called for their various forms of expertise. As Yoon commented, developing and constructing the Collier Memorial was “a very ‘MIT’ endeavor.”

No one needed her to elaborate; they recognized the nod to solving wicked hard problems by working across boundaries and pushing to the outer edge of the technology envelope. It runs deep. Again, most of these people had it before they got to MIT. But at MIT, they get their problem solving and teaming tools sharpened to the nth degree. Their curiosity is heightened, respect for data and the scientific method reinforced, and the iterative learning process practiced over and over again.