An MIT Alumni Association Publication

A Year of Growth and Gratitude: Reflecting on My Journey as MITAA President

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A reflection by R. Robert Wickham ’93, SM ’95, president of the MIT Alumni Association

It’s remarkable how quickly time flies. It feels like it was just yesterday that I accepted the gavel from Steve Baker ’84, MArch ’88 at the Alumni Leadership Conference (ALC). And alas, my term as the MIT Alumni Association president is fast drawing to an end. At the beginning of my tenure, I reflected on how MIT is a magical place—and this year has only served to reinforce that belief. MIT will always be a place where brilliant minds conjure innovations that are nothing short of magical. Indeed, MIT transforms lives so that we can, in turn, transform the world. 

Strengthening Connections, Across the Planet 

This past year, as I engaged with alumni worldwide, I witnessed firsthand the transformative effect of MIT. As an international alum now residing in Australia, I made it my mission to connect with alumni wherever my travels took me, whether for work or leisure. This journey led me to meet a remarkable array of individuals: from innovators revolutionizing life sciences and machine intelligence to entrepreneurs launching ventures in space commercialization, planet decarbonization, and the distribution of plant-based meats to restaurants. I even met an author who wrote a book about rocks and minerals. I am profoundly grateful for these interactions with such inspiring individuals and am eager to see how their groundbreaking efforts will continue to shape our world.

An image with two photos side by side showing MIT alum Robert Wickham sitting in a restaurant at dinner with people
Enjoying dinner with my fellow alumni in Singapore (left) and Sydney (right).

A Year in Review 

My journey, which began on July 1, 2023, was marked by several key events and collective achievements: 

-The Alumni Leadership Conference: ALC is one of the cornerstone events on the Alumni Association calendar. This past year’s ALC felt electric as attendance returned to pre-Covid levels.

-Nobel achievements: The Nobel Prize was awarded to Professor Moungi Bawendi, a member of our chemistry faculty, serving as a reminder of the extraordinary intellectual environment that MIT fosters.

-Presidential Welcome Tour: Following her inauguration in May 2023, President Sally Kornbluth kicked off a series of events in New York City; San Francisco; Washington, DC; and London to connect with alumni. I even had the opportunity to host the fireside chat with the president in London. It was such a pleasure to see alumni from all over Europe come together for the occasion. 

-The Climate Project at MIT: MIT announced a new plan following President Kornbluth’s call to the MIT community to mount a “bold, tenacious response” to the global threat posed by climate change. The plan states: “The goal is for MIT to become, within the next decade, one of the world’s most prolific and collaborative sources of technological, behavioral, and policy solutions for the global climate challenge.”

-The power of community: This year’s MIT 24-Hour Challenge, held on Pi Day, truly made history. The event not only surpassed previous fundraising records but also demonstrated the extraordinary generosity and engagement of our alumni community. The overwhelming support on this day highlighted the collective impact we can achieve when we come together.

A photo of MIT alum Robert Wickham carrying a gold mase and wearing graduation robes while leading commencement with MIT president Sally Kornbluth behind him
 Preceding President Sally Kornbluth and Noubar Afeyan, PhD ’87 as we led the procession for commencement into Killian Court. Credit: Ken Richardson. 

-2024 Commencement: Serving as the chief marshal at this year’s Commencement was a distinct honor. I especially enjoyed the remarks of Noubar Afeyan PhD ’87 and his charge to the Class of 2024, saying “My wish for you, my fervent hope, is that you not only choose to accept impossible missions, you embrace them. Welcome long odds. Embrace uncertainty, and lead with imagination. Approach the unknown with the courage, the confidence, and the curiosity of an immigrant.”

-A celebration of lifelong bonds: This year’s 2024 Tech Reunions were a vibrant celebration, bringing together more than 3,300 alumni and guests on the MIT campus. It was a truly special experience to be part of this gathering. The highlight for me was the Cardinal & Gray Dinner Dance, where I had the joy of mingling with alumni who graduated over 50 years ago. Dancing with my wife, Kristin, among friends old and new, I was reminded of the enduring connections we share with MIT and each other—bonds that indeed last a lifetime.

A photo of MIT alum Robert Wickham dancing inside with other people around them dancing as well and a red jacket in the right foreground
Sharing a dance with my wife, Kristin, at the Cardinal & Gray Dinner Dance. Credit: Ken Richardson. 

-Navigating challenges with empathy: This year, like many other institutions, MIT felt the profound impact of the crisis in the Middle East, which resonated across our campus and throughout our alumni community. It was a privilege to listen to the diverse perspectives within our community and to facilitate open, respectful dialogues. Our constant aim has been to create a space where dialogue bridges differences, fostering a culture of mutual respect and learning. While there is still much to accomplish, these conversations are vital steps toward understanding and progress.

Looking Ahead with Gratitude and Hope

As I look to the future, I am filled with confidence that Natalie Lorenz Anderson ’84 will carry forward the presidency with distinction. Reflecting on a conversation with Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill ’86, I’m reminded of how MIT values excellence, resilience, and intellectual curiosity in its students. These qualities are not merely admirable traits; they are the essence of what it means to be an MIT alum.

This year has shown me that the relationships we forge through MIT are not fleeting but are lifelong bonds that sustain us, challenge us, and inspire us to keep reaching for those impossible missions. As I pass on this role, I carry with me not just memories of a year well spent but a renewed commitment to live out the values that MIT has instilled in us all.

Photo (top): Toasting to an amazing year during reunions weekend. Credit: Mel Musto. 

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