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In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Michael Dertouzos' passing, please share your cherished memories, recollections and musings on this legendary leader.

When I arrived as a  (very) junior faculty member at MIT in 1974, Michael had just become director of Project Mac (later LCS), and he was feeling his way around his position just as I was getting accustomed to mine.  I have to say that my first impression of his leadership was negative when I heard him give a brief description of one of my research projects to a group of visiting dignitaries.  He got the gist of it just right, but the details were all muddled, and I was aghast.  In talking with the visitors later, however, I realized that it was the gist that interested them, not the details that I would have led with.  Michael was always fantastic at seeing the big picture, understanding where trends were leading our field, and where the critical opportunities lay.  
Michael also saw that LCS was not just a lab in which people could do their work, but that it was a social institution in which members and their families often led large parts of their lives.  He created many opportunities for us to get to know each other at a personal level, such as fun parties and the off-campus two-day annual meeting, where our families participated and became friends with other families in the Lab.  Michael understood the tremendous value of treating us as a family, and happily played the role of "pater familias."  His love of our children and the lengths to which he went to take us in his boat to the middle of the Charles River to see the July Fourth fireworks above us or to the Boston Harbor Islands made an indelible impression on our growing children, and gave them a connection to Michael and the Lab that counted as family and not just a workplace for their dad. Michael also helped me to start a company, tried (unsuccessfully) to turn me into a technical administrator, and with Catherine, expanded my musical horizons.
He was a wonderful leader, a charismatic human being, and even after ten years, I miss him dearly.



Peter Szolovits, CSAIL

August 25 2011