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A Fond Farewell for CSAIL's Ladybug
Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer
3 October 2011
Known as a good luck charm in some cultures and a boon to the plant world thanks to its pest-eating abilities, CSAIL has been lucky enough to have its own “ladybug” since the lab’s inception in 2003. Keeping a friendly watch over CSAIL’s front desk in Headquarters, Anne Lawthers, or “Ladybug,” has welcomed many to the lab with warmth and sincerity.
After 27 years of service to MIT, Lawthers is retiring at the end of the month, and many CSAIL members lamented that the lab won’t be the same without her.
“Annie is a fixture in Headquarters,” said Karen Shirer, assistant director of Administration at CSAIL. “The place will never be the same without her.”
Lawthers first came to MIT in May of 1984, when she was hired at the National Magnet Lab. Since that time she has worked at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Artificial Intelligence Lab and CSAIL. According to Lawthers, one of her favorite aspects of the job has been working with a wide variety of people.
“I happen to love giving and talking with people, a lot of which has to do with my experience teaching in the performing arts. I have taught professionally in dance, music and theater,” explained Lawthers. She added that her mantra when people walk through the front door is, “to treat people as you want to be treated.”
Lawthers is known throughout the lab for her sunny personality, warm smile and her sense of humor. Beyond her nickname, Lawthers greets co-workers as they enter Headquarters with, “Welcome to the Ladybug Den of No Good and Mischief,” which, as Lawthers explained, is her own way of trying to bring a little fun into the workday.
Nira Manokharan, an administrative assistant at CSAIL, recalled seeing Lawthers’ smiling face the first time she came to MIT.
“She was the first friendly person I met at the AI Lab. She was so warm and friendly, and she has always been so nice,” said Manokharan. “If you need someone to talk to, she is there.”
Despite the difficulties involved with serving as the public face of MIT’s largest interdisciplinary laboratory, Lawthers always manages to keep a smile on her face and tries her upmost to assist each and every person who enters Headquarters.
“She is unshakeable in dealing, earnestly and sincerely, with some of the individuals who call her. She’s maintaining this wonderful reputation for CSAIL,” said Ann Seymour, CSAIL’s Human Resources Administrator. “She always wants to do the right thing and people go away feeling that they have been helped. I think she has a tough job, sitting in the reception area and serving as the first greeter, but she knows how to direct people and solve their problems.”
Another aspect of Lawthers that many CSAIL members cherish is her gift of dance. Lawthers’ passion in life is for the performing arts, in particular dance, and she has cheered many during her time at the lab by spontaneously performing pirouettes.
“She brings a lightheartedness to the lab,” said Jack Costanza, assistant director of Infrastructure at CSAIL. “Besides her helping to coordinate keys and parking, her ability to be the Ladybug, to bust into a dance coming down the hall and do her pirouette,” is what makes her so special.
Lawthers grew up surrounded by performers, as both her mother and father performed professionally, and studied music, dance and theater for many years. After college she moved to New York City to pursue a career dancing professionally, but after three years decided she missed her hometown of Boston too much. Over the years she has taught professionally, performed extensively (including a stint dancing and teaching in Hawaii) and hopes to return to dance, in particular Flamenco, and teaching dance after she retires.
Besides dancing, Lawthers hopes to do some more gardening once she is retired, as like her nickname she has quite a penchant for horticulture. She also hopes to do some more bird watching, and to volunteer with the Friends of Mt. Auburn Cemetery, hopefully leading tours of the historic site.
After her last day at CSAIL on September 30, Lawthers and her husband, Ralph (the two met at MIT), will embark on a two-week trip in Berlin, where they hope to spend some time exploring the city and its environs. Looking back on 27 years at MIT, Lawthers said she couldn’t be happier to have wrapped up her career at CSAIL.
“I’m so glad to have ended my career at MIT with all the people at CSAIL,” said Lawthers. “I couldn’t think of a better group of people to work with and I mean that.”
While CSAIL members are sure to miss Ladybug, they are wishing her well on this next phase in her life.
“I just want to wish her good luck and tell her that we’ll miss her,” said Ron Wiken, a longtime co-worker.
Abby Abazorius, CSAIL