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MIT Millenium Ball

By Karen Robinson

The success of last weekend’s Millennium Ball surprised even its organizers. Twice as many students, faculty, and staff as expected came to see the Student Center all decked out and to celebrate the new millennium.

The Millennium Ball was organized by a group of people from several campus offices, including the Campus Activities Complex and Office of Academic Services, and student groups.

Funds for the event were provided by the president’s office, said Vice President Kathryn A. Willmore. The numbers have not been tabulated yet, but “these things don’t come cheap,” she said.

Ball exceeds expectations

“Our goal was about a thousand people,” said organizer Ted Johnson, Associate Director of Programs in the Campus Activities Complex. In all, about two thousand people bought ball tickets.

The many pre-ball dinners around campus helped raise attendance, organizers said. The Dormitory Council offered $200 to any dorm interested in planning a dinner before the ball, said Jennifer A. Frank, DormCon president. At least seven campus dorms did host dinners. Between 100 and 150 people attended the East Campus dinner alone, Frank said.

Carolyn Ng ’03 said the ball definitely met her expectations, and the food was especially good. Another student, Saria Hassan ’01, said “the live band was tight,” and also appreciated the wealth of deserts and soft drinks available.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Elizabeth Cogliano Young, Coordinator of Student Programs in the Office of Academic Services.

Bringing back the ball tradition

Doing research for a class last year, Van L. Chu ’99, Staff Assistant for Programming Initiatives in the Office of Academic Services, came across the fact that balls in Walker Memorial Hall were held every four to five years. Balls in Walker ended about thirty years ago, but several have been held in the student center since then.

According to Willmore, there were several campus-wide balls in the 1980’s and during the presidency of Paul E. Gray ’54. During the early 1990’s finances were tighter, so it was feared that a ball would be seen as an unnecessary expenditure, Willmore said.

Chu and Undergraduate Association President Matthew L. McGann ’00 then proposed the Millennium Ball as a device to foster student-faculty interaction, and perhaps rekindle the ball tradition.

“The success of the party last Saturday showed that it really is an important thing to do [for the Institute],” Willmore said.

The party was not just attended by groups of students, Johnson said, but also by groups from academic departments.

Student Misha V. Koshelev ’02 said he attended the ball partially because he called two different fraternities and found that most brothers from both were going to the ball. “I had never heard of frat brothers going to MIT-sponsored events before,” Koshelev said.

Stratton’s new look

Stratton Student Center was transformed to a party location by the outside consultant who worked on Johnson Games, an occasional event last held for President Vest’s inauguration, ten years ago, Dianne Devitt. “The theatrical company sent a crew of 25,” Johnson said. “They came at midnight the night before the ball, and worked until the ball began.”

After the ball, it took eight or nine hours to break it all down. The Student Center is back to normal now, and the pizza/pasta counter in Lobdell has no soda stools.

“I know that students won’t look at the Student Center in the same way after this,” Johnson said.