PLAN 72: Article
on The Way To The Forum

A Gift to Honor Mentors

At the urging of Tom Beischer (PhD'04) – an alumnus of the school's program in the History, Theory and Criticism of Art and Architecture (HTC) – the Beischer family has established a fund to support the program's forum in the Department of Architecture. The fund is named for Hélène Lipstadt and Nancy Stieber – a resounding thanks to two of Tom's most valued MIT mentors.

These two women, in addition to Mark Jarzombek and Stanford Anderson, two professors in the HTC, made up Tom's dissertation committee. Tom says of Lipstadt, a specialist regarding memory, space and social theory, 'We met in the department, and realized we shared a common theoretical interest. Hélène was a great guide in my dissertation. She challenged my thinking.'

He also recalls of Stieber (an HTC alumna), 'When I was pursuing my topic, Stanford said I had to get Nancy on my committee. She had so many things going on – for example, she was editor of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians – but she was still willing to take me on.

'You talk with so many graduate students who go through the process and talk about the advisor they never see,' says Tom. 'And now that I’m teaching, I realize how difficult it is. You are writing your book, teaching your class, and mentoring is falling down through the cracks. But Hélène and Nancy were always there for me in so many ways. I feel just as strongly about Mark and Stanford. This gift recognizes academics like them.'

The HTC Forum was one of Tom's favorite things about MIT. 'Stanford Anderson was one of the founders of the program,' says Tom. 'When he knew an interesting academic would be in town, he asked them to speak, and some of them were absolutely brilliant. Afterward, we would often go to Bertucci's restaurant to continue our discussions over pizza. Mark Jarzombek was also interested in having students more involved in choosing the speakers and organizing the talks, so I worked on it for a few years.'

'MIT's strength,' says Tom, 'is its openness to outside ideas, and the Forum is a great way to see those new, interesting ideas. The HTC Forum always kept and continues to stir the pot.'

As the Forum continued to grow, Tom saw that it needed funding and made the case to his family for a gift to MIT. 'My father, mother and grandmother were a big help with this fund,' he says. Tom’s father, George, comments, 'In Tom I see the tenacity to say 'we need something like this, and I’m going to make sure this happens.'

In Tom's words, 'If you find something you're passionate about, then support it any way you need to. One of my undergraduate mentors, Al Elsen, advised me, 'Be a joiner. Get involved in the things that are important to you.'

George wholeheartedly agrees. 'Whatever career you're in, don’t forget where you came from. Don't forget that a lot of people contributed to where you are now. Remember that somebody did something for you, and you have to step up too.'

Tom's advice for alumni: 'Be a difference maker. You want to be a difference maker. If it means giving monetarily, do it that way. If it means volunteering and giving of your time, do it that way. There are lots of different ways you can be a difference maker for MIT.'