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New Dorm Receives Donation

Alumnus Richard P. Simmons Donates $20M To Vassar St. Dormitory

By Aurora Schmidt

Richard P. Simmons, a member of the class of 1953 has pledged $20 million for the construction of the new undergraduate residence.

Simmons and his wife Dorothy decided to make the donation because they believe that MIT must give more importance to the issues of the quality of life for undergraduates.

Mr. and Mrs. Simmons hope to help improve the support systems for students. He said, “MIT students are intense, competitive and extremely bright. They need opportunities to interact socially on campus and meet faculty outside the classroom. The new dormitory should be an important first step in that direction.”

Campus reaction enthusiastic

Jennifer A. Frank ’00, president of the Dormitory Council, is also happy to hear of the Simmons donation. “It’s really encouraging to hear that there are people that think student life is important beyond the scope of just academics,” Frank said. Simmons’ gesture is important because it proves that one can raise money for the improvement of undergraduate life, she said.

Founder’s Group member Rima Arnaout ’02 said, “I’m delighted to hear about the gift. It’s one thing to plan the structure and programming behind the new dorm, but it’s another thing to have the money behind those ideas.”

Dorm plans

The new dorm is designed to enhance student social life. Architect Steven Hall referred to the plans for the building as having sponge-like qualities, in that that there will be ample common spaces for students to enjoy. The corridors will be made wider than those of most dorms. An in-residence dining hall will also hopefully add to the social and supportive aspects of the dorm,

The dormitory has been in discussion and plans since the summer of 1998. It is planned to be finished by Fall of 2001, just in time for the imminent changes in housing systems. Ground is scheduled to be broken this winter.

Simmons grateful to MIT

Simmons attributes much of his success to his experiences as a student at MIT. In a letter to President Charles M. Vest he said, “I doubt that I would be anywhere near as well off as I am today if it weren’t for MIT. Was it tough? No question. Was it worthwhile? Absolutely. MIT teaches you how to think and solve problems. It also teaches you to be humble. At MIT, you find out there are lot of people smarter than you are. Those aren’t bad lessons for life.”

After living his first year as an undergraduate at East Campus, Simmons joined Delta Upsilon and moved in with the fraternity.

Simmons wishes there had been more “Institute-driven” programs to help people make adjustments. He lived with people ranging from battle-hardened WWII veterans and fresh graduates of elite high schools.

“There were no house proctors, no mentors. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience,” said Mr. Simmons.

The now 68-year-old alumnus served for many years as CEO and president of Allegheny Ludlem, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before retiring this October. Simmons still serves as chair of the board.

Simmons, a trustee of MIT, has also given money to the his class’s 40th Reunion Gift and to the department of Chemistry Renovation Campaign as well as establishing a scholarship fund and a professorship in metal processing and manufacturing.