Prof. Larry Young's Retirement

December 31, 2013

Torin, Alan, Larry, Chuck and Greg celebrate!

At the 2013 Holiday Party, the AeroAstro Department celebrated Larry's career and retirement after 58 years at MIT as an undergraduate student, graduate student and professor. Testimonials were given by Greg Zacharias, Chuck Oman and Dan Merfeld followed by Larry's remarks and reading remarks from other former students who were not able to attend (Dava Newman, Mark Shelhamer, Grant Schaffner, Cori Lathan). Afterwards, the department presented Larry with an unpublished cover of the New Yorker magazine as a gift.  

Below is the full text of Larry's remarks followed by some pictures from the event.

Retirement Remarks  - Dec 13, 2013
Prof. Laurence R. Young


Who Me?

I’m far too young.

Back when I first arrived at MIT from Amherst College, as an undergrad in 1955, I had the prize possessions that established me as a “true nerd”  - my K and E Slide Rule (complete with leather case), a copy of the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, with my name embossed in gold letters, and a copy of Burrington’s with its table of integrals and other secrets.  And now I can add the fourth essential – a retirement dinner from MIT fifty-eight years later.

So – as a an MIT Lifer – let me share with you my list of the Best and Worst in my MIT career – and you might recognize some of the people I name..

  1. The best wild gamble by a Department Head:
    1. Doc Draper in 1962, when he hired me to initiate what later became called aerospace human factors in the Department  - and, for Adult Supervision, placed me under the mentorship of:
  2. The most innovative professor ever part of our faculty –who invented the self-balancing 3 wheeled  vehicle, co-founded the MVL – and then turned it over to me,  and went on to establish MIT’s Innovation Center- Y. T. Li
  3. The epitome of an elder statesman department head – Ray Bisplinghoff – who would decide the desired outcome of a meeting – whether it was of the Department or of the Air Force SAB – and then let us think it was our own idea all along.
  4. My greatest benefactor – Bob Seamans, who contributed most of the funds for the Apollo Chair I hold – and was always a good humored supporter of mine
  5. My oldest friend, going back to the Bronx High School of Science and even earlier, our MVL statistician Alan Natapoff
  6. The best classroom teacher – who would end each lecture just on time, with the last equation, leaving us to think it was all very obvious – WallyVanderVelde
  7. The Worst Teacher, who was known to some of us as the Radio Character “The Shadow”  because, like The Shadow, he had the “power to cloud men’s minds”  (Name Withheld)
  8. The most trusting provost – who came up with extra funding for our first space experiments – as long as we promised not to harm any primates - people or especially monkeys – or otherwise embarrass the Institute  Walter Rosenblith
  9. The amazingly talented faculty colleagues with whom I developed and taught several new course over the years – in Comparative Instrumentation, Y. T. Li, in Human Factors, Tom Sheridan and then Missy Cummings,  in Flight Simulation, Walt Hollister, then Marc Connelly, Antonio Elias and Jim Kuchar, in Quantitative Physiology, Bob Mann, Larry Frischkopf and Bill Seibert, in Sensori-Motor Systems, Chuck Oman and Dan Merfeld, and most recently, in Engineering Apollo – Dave Mindell and then John Tylko.
  10. Best all-around athlete in the department – 5’4” feet tall, wearing high tops, and a basketball all-American, holder of women’s the world’s record for human powered speed in the water, and assistant ski coach – Dava Newman
  11.  Best serve and volley on the faculty –– who told me it was acceptable to bring my tennis racket onto the Air Force T-39s on SAB trips Jimmy Mar
  12. Worst doubles team in the department, starting when we were grad students in Instrumentation,– who never got past the first round of the faculty tennis tournament, but kept on trying – my old friend Walt Hollister and me
  13.  Most FGE (Fun at Government Expense) Astronaut Training, including parachuting into Pensacola Bay in mid-winter.
  14. Most wasted time:  NASA Committees designing science requirements for the ISS
  15. Best at appreciating the wonder of our adventures in research – who taught me to do celestial navigation from a book – and I still found Bermuda on my first Blue Water sailboat race– my collaborator on over a half dozen space flights and Director of the MVL, Chuck Oman
  16. Student who went the furthest – Charlie Duke – who went to the moon.
  17. Students who made the most of their theses – Lew Nashner – who turned his PhD apparatus into the world’s standard posture test machine, and Greg Zacharias who extended his human factors work into the creation of the influential company - Charles River Analytics

And some marvelous sabbaticals -

  1. Best sabbatical for research was in Zurich  thanks to Volker Henn,
  1. Best sabbatical for wine and biking and skiing – Stanford,
  2. Best sabbatical for culture – Paris
  3. Worst sabbatical for serious research - Paris
  4. Best sabbatical for food - boulliabise – in Marseille
  5. Worst sabbatical for food – chicken fried steak in Houston
  6. Best right hand – and live memo pad – Liz Zotos –
  7. Best diplomat –  long time friend and trusted partner in keeping our Skolkovo dream alive, Jeff Hoffman.
  8. Best part of being an Aero-Astro Professor - our students – represented by the talented alumni at my table (Harvard Prof. Dan Merfeld, Dr. Greg Zacharias, President of Charles River Analytics,  Torin Clark (the most recent PhD, now an NSBRI post-doc at the Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary) and Kevin Duda of Draper Labs and Jessica Duda of Aurora Flight Sciences -  who both wrote their dissertations under me and then married each other. To those remarkable students, who make us all look good and to you, my colleagues – thanks for the ride! I could not have dreamed of a finer group of people to with whom to work and play.