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In the coming months, I will be leading the effort to design the MIT 150 Exhibition for the Institute’s 150th anniversary. Thanks to your nominations, I’ve got some great material to work with, but we still need your help!
Today is New Year’s Day so I thought I’d start with the idea of founders and new beginnings and ask you to help me see William Barton Rogers through your eyes.
The guy depicted in profile above seems to be made of granite but if you do a little bit of reading, I think you will agree that Rogers must have been an exceptionally charismatic and compelling figure. How else can you explain the success of a southerner from Virginia in Boston, Massachusetts? He had BIG ideas (you can check out his “vision statement” at: http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/timeline/objects-plan.html) and the drive and managerial acumen to get things done. He also had patience and stamina, for how else can you explain the survival of MIT when just a few days after incorporation, the Civil War began stealing away his prospective students? He may have waited four years for classes to get underway but he was so confident they would come that he started a new building and hired faculty even before the war was over. Even though I have read many of his letters, I really wish I knew more about him.
So this is a request to you….. Help us learn more about Rogers! What can you track down online? Can you find materials on Flickr Commons? Do you have a picture of Mt. Rogers in Virginia (I think he is the only MIT president that has a mountain named for him!)? Are you a genealogy person? Can you help us build his family tree?
And most importantly, even if you do not know much about Rogers at all, I would like to ask you about the importance of MIT to you. What if Rogers had stayed in Charlottesville teaching at the University of Virginia? How would the world have been different?
So who is William Barton Rogers to you? I look forward to your links, stories and comments!
Debbie Douglas, Curator
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