Prof. unveils design for new tribute to Officer Sean Collier

Cost of permanent structure by Stata is still uncertain

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A rendering of the planned memorial to the late MIT Police Officer Sean Collier. The memorial will stand between the Stata Center (Building 32) and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research (Building 76), near where Collier was shot.
Courtesy of Höweler + Yoon Architecture

A year after MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was allegedly shot and killed by the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, MIT unveiled its plans for a permanent memorial to him. Architecture Professor J. Meejin Yoon revealed her design at last Friday’s ceremony of remembrance for Collier.

“The memorial is inspired by the gesture of an open hand,” said Yoon in an interview with The Tech. In the design, five solid walls of granite enclose a space at the center. According to Eric Höweler, Yoon’s architectural collaborator, the goal is to open the memorial on the second anniversary of Collier’s death: April 18, 2015.

“The symbolism of the open hand resonates on many levels,” said Yoon. “The hand is a gesture of openness and generosity; it is also the alternative to a closed fist and a symbol of peace, and at MIT the hand has a special meaning as the complement to the mind and the symbol for applied knowledge.”

The memorial will be located between the Stata Center (Building 32) and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research (Building 76), near where Collier was shot in his vehicle while on duty. Shortly after his death last year, a makeshift memorial was erected in the area.

MIT Police Chief John DiFava, the co-chair of the Sean Collier Permanent Memorial Committee, called the new permanent memorial “a continuation of the most incredible support one can imagine,” both for Sean Collier and for the police department. He said that the MIT Police were “impressed beyond words” with the design.

According to an email from MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz SM ’01 last fall, the memorial committee was convened over the summer. Committee members include Provost Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88 and students Sally A. Miller ’16 and Sara E. Ferry G. DiFava said that the committee selected the architect and categorized the data they received after they sent an email to the community soliciting input.

Several details of the project’s implementation have not yet been finalized.

“Right now, there are several different funding sources but [the funding of the memorial] hasn’t been completely worked out,” said DiFava. He mentioned that there have been many donors, including those who gave to the Sean Collier Memorial Fund.

“The reason why it’s difficult at this point to come up with a cost is because of the stone,” explained DiFava. “Is it already in the quarry? Does it have to be cut from the quarry? Are there pieces left over from some other job that we can use? These are all the questions that have to be answered, so before we can come up with actual prices, there’s an awful lot of work has to be done.”

In addition to the remembrance ceremony last Friday morning, MIT also held a community picnic in the afternoon to help rally for the 40-member MIT Strong marathon team, which raced in Monday’s Boston Marathon.

On the same day as the ceremony, a group of hackers called “Cranes for Collier” suspended thousands of white paper cranes beneath a skylight in the Stata Center as a tribute to Collier. According to the group’s website, the MIT administration has decided to leave the crane installation up indefinitely.

Anonymous almost 9 years ago

Imagine that a cancer researcher was working hard in the lab, and was killed by an accident (perhaps faulty equipment). What do you think would be the response? There would be a letter to the community from the MIT president, he would appoint a few faculty to conduct an investigation into how we can make our labs safer, and there would be a small service in the MIT chapel. This person was dedicating their efforts to helping humanity, probably regularly working long hours and making many personal sacrifices. Why would the response be so different to that of Sean Collier? Why wouldn't classes be canceled Institute-wide and the service streamed on TechTV? Why wouldn't the Green Building be lit up for several days on the one year anniversary? Why wouldn't we have a large permanent statue erected? Why do police officers receive such special treatment? Is it simply to instill a feeling of pride in other police officers so that they are less likely to abuse their power? If so, hopefully it will at least prevent abuses like those perpetrated just a few years ago by MIT officers: . It seems to be a touchy subject in America, as people here are brought up with the belief ingrained into them that police and military personnel should receive unwavering respect. It seems strange to me, however, that researchers, who have struggled for their whole academic career to advance humanity by improving our understanding of the universe, should receive less.

Isaac Moses almost 9 years ago

Police officers and other first responders put their lives on the line for the sake of others in the course of their normal duties. They deserve special recognition for risk they take on behalf of the rest of us whether that risk is realized or not. When it is, as in the case of Officer Collier, may he rest in peace, permanent recognition is the least we can do in return.

Anonymous almost 9 years ago

I'm for celebrating Officer Collier's sacrifice but I have some reservations about naming the square at the intersection of Main St and Vassar St after him. It was named after Daniel Lewin, a co-founder of Akamai, who was killed on 9/11 after trying to fight the hijackers.

Now, they are renaming this square after Officer Collier.

I don't think Daniel Lewin's heroic actions should be forgotten and honoring Officer Collier by renaming this intersection does not sit right. The memorial is appropriate though IMO.

Anonymous over 8 years ago

I'd be very surprised if Cambridge took down the sign for Danny Lewin. Maybe the sign for Sean Collier will go on a different corner of the intersection.