2020 Infinite Mile Award Recipients

A Message from the President:

Although we’re unable to gather on campus this year for the traditional ceremony, we thank the 2020 Infinite Mile Award recipients for their extraordinary dedication and service to MIT. I hope you will take a moment to view the award citations and congratulate the winners.

May you all stay healthy and safe,
L. Rafael Reif


Our congratulations and thanks to the recipients of our twentieth Infinite Mile Awards.

Deborah Fisher for Problem Solving & Leadership
Melanie Gonick for Public, Customer, or Client Relations
Allen Veldwisch for Public, Customer, or Client Relations
Team Award (Danyel Barnard, Lin Sing Lee, Bara Blender) for Collaboration/Teamwork
Ann McNamara for Community Building
Sarah Mattivello for Community Building


Deborah Fisher

Deborah Fisher, Institute Risk Officer, Risk Management & Compliance Services, for Problem Solving & Leadership

Read the award citation

When people think about risk management and compliance officers, the key traits that come to mind are humor, energy, and curiosity. Well, maybe not normally, but certainly in Debby’s case.

Debby accepted the challenge of creating a central office for risk management at MIT while serving as Institute Auditor. But she’s always been more than an auditor—she is a community leader and trusted thought partner. Debby is fearless when change is needed to make MIT better, but only after considering the data and listening to a wide range of perspectives. 

In true MIT spirit, Debby approaches problems collaboratively, with a knack for getting the right people in the room to find solutions. She balances consummate professionalism with emotional intelligence. We could go on—and her colleagues did, praising Debby for everything from mentoring individual staff to setting up teams for success.

For 20 years, Debby has protected MIT’s interests and served our faculty, staff, and students. One colleague remarks that she has been, quite simply, “the perfect inaugural Institute Risk Officer.” We couldn’t agree more.

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Melanie Gonick

Melanie Gonick, Video Producer and Editor, Office of VP for Communications, for Public, Customer, or Client Relations

Read the award citation

Everyone knows how much we like numbers at MIT, and we’re pretty excited about this one: the MIT YouTube channel has racked up nearly 58 million views over the past five years. 

As the storyteller behind these numbers, Melanie has given us engaging looks at a student “Trashion Show,” an IAP DJing class, and the weird science of cornstarch and water, along with traditional subjects like research and robots. And now she’s producing audio articles and podcasts. In addition to mind, hand and heart, she is capturing eyes and ears! 

Always willing to share the spotlight, Melanie supports videographers across the Institute to make sure their work finds an audience. One colleague describes her as a “content production powerhouse,” while another praises her “deep understanding of MIT’s ethos, spirit, and culture.” 

Lest these descriptions sound too serious, we’ll add that colleagues also value her warmth, collegiality, and ability to get people laughing, even within the constraints of Slack channels and Zoom calls.

Melanie’s fun and fascinating stories keep us connected to what we love about MIT. We can’t wait to see (and hear) what she’ll share with us next!

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Allen Veldwisch

Allen Veldwisch, Computer Support Assistant, Copytech, for Public, Customer, or Client Relations

Read the award citation

With his attention to detail, dedication to service, and collaborative approach, Allen is a go-to print and copy expert. He gives every customer personal attention, helping us realize our goals for each project. 

Allen is quick to adapt to unexpected changes, and adept at spotting errors that others might miss. He guides us toward sustainable choices, and skillfully delivers everything from simple flyers to elegant invitations.

When problems arise, it might be easiest for Allen to just fix them for us. But he is patient and generous with his time, transforming even a software glitch into a learning opportunity.

One colleague describes Allen as “more interested in sharing information than owning it.” He goes beyond what we expect, taking extra steps to create tutorials and how-to guides that we can refer to when he’s not around.

But we can only do so much by ourselves! Allen, when we need the help of a true professional, you’ll be hearing from us.

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Team Award (Danyel Barnard, Lin Sing Lee, Bara Blender)

Team Award (Danyel Barnard, Sr. Director of Communications Initiatives; Lin Sing Lee, Web Development Manager; Bara Blender, Communications Strategist), Office of VP for Communications, for Collaboration/Teamwork

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When Covid-19 became part of our lives, all of us were searching for answers, and there were answers everywhere—some useful, some confusing, some just plain wrong. Danyel, Lin, and Bara immediately saw the need to send out a beacon to help us sail through the choppy waters of unreliable information.

The sheer effort and drive required to create the Covid-19 Info Center in such a short period of time makes us tired even thinking about it—tired, and grateful.

By wrangling committees and reaching out to sources, checking the details and keeping the big picture in mind, Danyel, Lin, and Bara created a portal of clear, accurate, timely updates that so many across MIT now rely on.

Knowledge is power, and they’ve made all of us more powerful, helping us steer past the rocky cliffs of “too much information” and safely into the harbor of “exactly what we need.”

Danyel, Lin, and Bara are extraordinary in ordinary times; in extraordinary times, they are nothing short of miraculous.

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Ann McNamara

Ann McNamara, Executive Director, Finance, Administration & Operations, Office of the President, for Community Building

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While Ann’s office doesn’t have a revolving door, sometimes it may seem like it. Every day, people from across campus visit her, seeking assistance and expert advice. Even when we can’t stop by physically, we know how to reach her—Ann’s email address is often at the top of our contact lists.

Fortunately, as her colleagues point out, Ann is a master of multitasking. She juggles countless projects large and small, from coordinating necessary repairs to managing budgets to helping us find solutions to thorny problems.

One colleague describes Ann as “a constant, sound, caring voice that provides reassurance and stability.” Her resourcefulness and dedication to serving others ensure that she’ll continue to be sought out by Institute leaders, partners, colleagues, and anyone needing direction or support.

Ann, we apologize for all the interruptions, but we can’t help ourselves. We’re going to keep knocking on your door—real or virtual—to consult, connect, and collaborate. Thank you for always inviting us in.


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Sarah Mattivello

Sarah Mattivello, HR Business Partner, Office of the President, for Community Building

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We’ve all heard the saying, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. When new hires take the first step onto our campus, Sarah is usually the one making that impression—and making us look good, right from the start.

Sarah gives every new colleague a warm welcome, showing them around and helping them settle in, advising on everything from benefits to IT support to finding a good cup of coffee. 

She is unfailingly helpful and always approachable, whether we need her assistance to correct a timesheet error (again!) or her thoughtful guidance in dealing with a challenging life event. From solving routine problems to offering support in tough situations, she handles it all with grace, insight, and endless patience.

Sarah makes our celebrations sparkle, and brightens our days with her warm and genuine smile. We are lucky to have her looking out for us. And next week, we promise to do a better job with our timesheets!


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