SDM’s Chris Bates is Co-Recipient of MIT Excellence Award

Awardees with Teresa Stone, L. Rafael Reif, Phillip L. Clay, and Claude R. Canizares

Co-Founders of Parents Forum honored for community contributions

By Lois Slavin, Communications Director, LFM-SDM
March 26, 2009

On March 4, 2009, Christine Bates, SDM Program Administrator, and Eve Odiorne Sullivan, Senior Editorial Assistant in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science, were honored with an MIT Excellence Award for co-founding Parents Forum. A grass-roots parenting program concerned with improving communication within families, Parents Forum helps people — individually and in groups — develop emotional awareness to improve their parenting skills and better understand their own and their children’s stages of learning.

Incorporated in 1992, Parents Forum brings together groups of parents to practice effective communication skills and learn to work through, with respect and honesty, the conflicts and strong feelings that arise in family and community life. Parents Forum supports them by offering opportunities for networking, skill development and support, as well as a handbook entitled Where the Heart Listens available for free download with a Creative Commons license at (l to r, behind awardees Eve Odiorne Sullivan and Christine L. Bates) Executive Vice President and Treasurer Teresa Stone, Provost L. Rafael Reif, Chancellor Phillip L. Clay, Vice President for Research and Associate Provost Claude R. Canizares.
(Photo courtesy of MIT.)

MIT’s Excellence Awards celebrate exceptional employee contributions that help to achieve and promote MIT goals and values. Chris and Eve received the award in the Creating Connections/Serving our Communities category. Specifically this involves incorporating the ideals and interests of MIT and its neighbors in Cambridge, or around the world, into daily work; initiating and maintaining sustainable, collaborative partnerships within MIT or with community organizations; exemplifying good citizenship through personal volunteerism; and serving as mentors and/or model citizens to the MIT community and beyond.

It all began a few years earlier at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, where Chris was working and where Eve’s sons were studying at the time. Parents Forum grew out of their ongoing discussions about the challenges of parenting. Soon Eve was on the frontlines conducting outreach to parents via public schools, libraries, and the media, while Chris plied her back office expertise to set up systems that ensured smooth operations on all fronts. During the past 17+ years, Parents Forum workshops have been held at MIT, across Massachusetts and have been part of conferences throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Parents Forum works extensively in prisons. Not surprisingly their teaching has been well received. In survey feedback gathered after a workshop held at MCI Norfolk in 2006, one inmate wrote, "Stupendous job! Thank you. This program can be a solution. This program gives hope!" Another remarked, "I did not want it to end. God bless and thank you!"

Over the years the importance of the work of Parents Forum has been recognized in many ways. The MIT Entrepreneurs Club gave the program a special Social Venturing Award in 1993. In 2005 Parents Forum received a message of support from the Dalai Lama. Financial support has come from many individuals and charitable organizations including Gravestar Foundation, Baker Foundation, Hilda Leveen Family Fund, Reed Elsevier Cares and the MIT Community Service Fund. Presently the law firm of Bromberg and Sunstein is providing pro bono legal advice as the organization prepares to license its curriculum more widely to community agencies.

The award from MIT has special meaning for Eve and Chris, as Eve has worked at the Institute for 25 years and Chris for 14.

Eve noted, "When we embarked on this journey, I fortunately had no idea of the many challenges involved in founding a nonprofit and keeping it going! The opportunities Parents Forum has given me to be part of a larger community, to play a leadership role, and especially to help individuals, have made all the struggles worthwhile. Some people of retirement age, whether working or not, find themselves searching for meaningful activities in the ‘third age’ of their lives. I already have mine!"

Chris added, "Parents Forum has been an important part of my life and will continue to be so. We are honored that our efforts have been recognized by MIT and we look forward to continuing this work."