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Leeb Wins Big Screw, Gives Money to Pine Street Inn

By Eun J. Lee

Professor of Computer Science Steven B. Leeb ’87, who teaches Microprocessor Control Laboratory (6.115), walked away with this year’s Big Screw.

Leeb won the annual Alpha Phi Omega Institute Screw Competition with a total of $1,997.71 raised for Leeb’s charity, Pine Street Inn. Leeb beat his closest competitor, President Charles M. Vest by more than $500 in donations.

“Winning this competition is the fulfillment of my 19-year dream at MIT,” Leeb said. “My advisor won the Big Screw when I came to MIT as a undergraduate in 1983, and I’ve always wanted to win it, too.”

Charity helps fight homelessness

“What we do is we provide everything from street outreach to shelter, healthcare, job training, and housing to 8,000 homeless men, women, and children each year,” said Laura Alpert, a spokesperson for Pine Street Inn. “This gift will help tremendously in those efforts.”

Leeb’s affiliation with this charity began when he was a doctoral student. “I was in Boston working on my PhD thesis about ten years ago in the middle of a particularly cold December,” Leeb said. “I was here working on my project until midnight every night and it was horrible.”

Leeb made a promise that if his thesis project worked, he would send a check to charity when he finished. “I went home really late on the night when my project finally started working and saw a commercial for Pine Street Inn. It seemed like a sign, and I’ve been donating to them ever since,” Leeb said.

Pine Street Inn has headquarters in downtown Boston, but it has several shelter, housing, outreach, thrift shop, and job training locations throughout the city.

Last day donations decide contest

The total amount of money raised in the competition more than doubled in the last day of voting. Leeb took the lead after trailing behind Vest, who was nominated for his role in choosing this year’s controversial commencement speaker, and Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75, who was nominated for his role in changes to graduate student housing this year.

“I’m revealing no secrets on winning the competition. That’s top secret,” Leeb said.

The drastic change in rankings and increased number of votes at the last minute is not unusual in the Big Screw competition.

“Just about every year, the bulk of the donations come on the last day of the competition,” said Laura C. Cerritelli ’03, publicity coordinator for the event. “The sudden change in rankings on the last day has certainly happened for a lot of candidates in the last couple of years.”

The organizers of this year’s competition say that they don’t actually know how many people donated to any particular candidate, or the average amount of each donation. “There are always a few students who really want one candidate to win and will donate significantly to that candidate, and we always see faculty and staff come by and help out their favorite candidates,” Cerritelli said.

Leeb honored by winning

Unlike the name would suggest to those unfamiliar with the competition, this annual event is an honor for those who win it.

“Winning this competition should be an honor since it signifies that students think your class deserves some form of recognition,” said Cerritelli, who is in Leeb’s 6.115 class. “He’s a really entertaining professor, and he really seems to care about us learning the material and doing cool things with it.”

At this point, Leeb is pleased with winning the competition and is unsure about his plans for entering the competition in future years.

“Whether or not I enter the competition again will be up to my students,” Leeb said. “I’m delighted to be the winner, and I think APO is really cool.”