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Tom Greene will retire after 20 years at MIT
March 26, 2007 - Until Tom Greene came to MIT 20 years ago in 1987 he always thought of his life in terms of decades, with each one ending like a chapter in a book. Two decades later, on the eve of his retirement, Greene's life no longer revolves around the same time table.
Greene smiles as he recalls the 20 years he has spent at MIT, and attributes his changing time table to the constant change and growth MIT has offered him over the years through changing positions and intellectual stimulation.
Until Tom settled at MIT he was in the habit of changing jobs every time he solved the challenges of his current position. "I need change, I have always been a theoretician and if I can see the answer I am no longer interested," Greene said.
"At MIT this has been a little different. As far as the roles I have played here they have all had a question or a problem to think through and then the answer for implementation."
Luckily for Greene there have been many challenges for him to solve at MIT and CSAIL. Since coming to MIT he has held a variety of jobs within the Institute including; managing the computer resources service team, managing SCOUT, a supercomputer used by researchers at MIT and other universities in the area, serving as the information officer for LCS, aiding in organizing the World Wide Web Consortium, organizing the lab's 35th anniversary celebration, serving in Washington D.C. as a program officer for the National Science Foundation, teaching undergraduates philosophy, acting as a Freshman Advisor, and finally serving as CSAIL's Outreach Officer.
Greene attributes the longevity of his career at MIT to his ability to understand the culture of a research institute and at the same time knowing what it takes administratively to run the different programs. Tom acknowledges that respect and understanding for both administrative and academic and research parts of a university is a challenge.
Greene's career began as an academic upon completing his PhD in theoretical physics. Later he also received a dual appointment as Director of Administrative Computing and as an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering.
"I have always tried to understand the entire university world, whether it's teaching students, doing research, or doing administrative tasks," Greene said.
Victor Zue, Co-Director of CSAIL, attributes the length and success of Tom's career to what he refers to as the "Tom Greene Hallmark," which encompasses his ability to organize, but more importantly to get people from different segments of the lab involved in projects that positively impact the community as a whole.
"If there is one word to describe Tom it's tenacious. He attacks every assignment with complete dedication and won't let anything get in the way of accomplishing it. Many of us have grown in fear of seeing Tom at out doorstep, knowing that there must have been something we have promised to do but have let slipped." Zue said.
Greene's relationship with MIT has been symbiotic. As much as he has contributed to the institute he also speaks nostalgically about the history he has witnessed in his time here and the exposure to the "big ideas" that he says he will miss most about CSAIL.
"Easy access to great ideas from brilliant people; that's what makes this place so intriguing. Everyone is extremely bright, aware and hardworking. There's an intensity to this place that I don't expect to find anywhere else," Greene said.
As Greene prepares to retire on March 31 he is confident in the framework he has laid down in his current position as an Outreach Officer for CSAIL. He has found the answer to the problem, and hopes that his legacy at the Institute will be a continued effort in reaching out to the public and helping them understand the research that goes on within CSAIL.