Bill Hanson Honored with MIT’s First Infinite Mile Award for Leadership

Honored with MIT’s First Infinite Mile Award for Leadership

By Lois Slavin
June 4, 2001

On May 31, LFM-SDM co-director was awarded the MIT School of Engineering’s first Infinite Mile Award for Leadership at a special ceremony held in the Grier Room. This award recognizes an individual who energizes individuals or groups to the need for specific changes in the way things are done; who leads in implementing these changes; encourages others; and establishes in others a sense of achievement. The award was presented to Bill by Dean of the School of Engineering Thomas Magnanti, a co-founder of LFM and SDM.

Said Dean Magnanti, “It is with special pleasure that I announce this year’s recipient of the School of Engineering’s Infinite Mile Award for Leadership: William Hanson, Co-Director of the Leaders for Manufacturing and System Design and Management programs. Bill formally joined MIT in 1992 after retiring from his post as Vice President at Digital, but his association with Leaders for Manufacturing, or LFM, as we usually refer to it, dates back to the mid 1980’s when Bill helped to formulate the program and not only committed his own company’s participation but also actively enticed other companies to participate as well.

“I have had the distinct pleasure of working closely with Bill in my previous role as an LFM co-director,” the Dean continued, “first when Bill was a leading industrial member of LFM’s governing Board and later when Bill became LFM’s only industry co-director. Bill has contributed to LFM and to our System Design and Management Program (SDM) in numerous ways that are far too many to enumerate here, although it is fair to say that he has provided unique and valuable perspectives and passion as someone who has lived manufacturing, someone who has uncanny managerial skills and instincts, and someone who understands and deeply appreciates what a university can contribute to society.

“Bill has been a remarkably effective advocate for manufacturing education, research and practice. Just as we refer to LFM as Big-M manufacturing, Bill is a Big-L leader and a Big-C citizen of MIT and the world of manufacturing. Congratulations, Bill, on this extremely well-deserved recognition.”

After accepting the award, Bill made the following remarks:

“To begin with, I am very surprised, flattered, and extremely honored to be receiving an Infinite Mile Award. But it is important to me to acknowledge two key factors that enable me to be in a position to receive it.

“One, I have felt blessed to have been able to be a part of the MIT community and to have a chance to play a role in this truly wonderful thing called LFM and now LFM-SDM/ESD. I admit I have a biased perspective, but this tripartite partnership of the School of Engineering, Sloan, and industry is a breakthrough concept that MIT started. For me, it began with being involved as an industry participant, experiencing LFM from that perspective, and feeling the genuine sense of partnership provided to us from MIT and our partners in Sloan and SOE.

“But then to be invited by MIT to be part of LFM as a member of the MIT community allowed me to be in the unique position of knowing and experiencing the sense of partnership from both the industry and the academic sides. I want to recognize and acknowledge the supportive environment provided by MIT for this breakthrough tripartite concept. I’ve worked with many other universities and none of them have them have the support — in terms of commitment and sponsorship from their institutions — that MIT has provided LFM-SDM.

“This tri-partite partnership is setting a standard for others in terms of the leadership that is required for this type of partnership to succeed and in providing the leadership to help cause the change necessary.

“The second key factor is, most importantly, that while I am being recognized today, it is in reality a team effort that is being recognized. From the beginning, LFM, and now LFM-SDM, has worked because of the leadership that comes from the whole team. This includes deans, co-directors, staff, faculty, students, alums, and industry. Partnerships only work because they are team efforts, and I have sure been part of a great team.

“Finally, I most confess that to be recognized by MIT’s School of Engineering is truly a most significant point in my career, especially for an older fellow who came from a school in Palo Alto known as the farm — aka Stanford.”