Burton Conner Housemasters to step down
The Dean for Student Life today announced that longtime Burton Conner Housemasters, Professor Merritt Roe Smith and his wife, Bronwyn Mellquist, will step down from their posts in the undergraduate dormitory at the end of this academic year.
The couple has been Housemasters at Burton Conner since 2004, living among the students as mentors, neighbors, and role models to the community. “Roe and Bronwyn are such energetic and passionate contributors to campus life,” said Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo. “They made BurtonConner a thriving, happy, and welcoming community, and we will miss their vital presence as Housemasters.”
Smith is the Leverett and William Cutten Professor of the History of Technology whose research focuses on the history of technological innovation and social change. But he also developed a keen interest in the history of MIT; he recently co-taught a course on the history of MIT and contributed the first chapter to Becoming MIT: Moments of Decision, the anthology published by the MIT Press in celebration of the Institute’s 150th anniversary.
Smith also brought this passion for history to his role as Housemaster, supporting resident Michael Berry ’10 in writing “60 Years of Burton House,” a history of the community.
Home to more than 350 students living in suites, Burton Conner (W51) is located on Amherst Alley. The building consists of two wings, the Burton side with five floors of residents and the Conner side with four, each floor having its own personality. Smith and Mellquist have played a central role in the residence, from organizing events to offering personal and academic support to students.
“I knew that [Roe] would be there to listen to my problems and, if need be, connect me with the right people so that I could deal with my problems with minimal effect on my grades,” Berry wrote in his history of Burton Conner. “I knew that if I went to [Bronwyn], she would be quick to give me a hug and listen to what I had been going through.”
During their tenure as Housemasters, the couple continued house traditions such as the annual Burton Conner Apple Bake and annual Boston Harbor cruise—famous for Smith’s dance-off competition with students—while creating new events, such as an immensely popular study break during finals—featuring Mellquist’s famous apple crisp..
Smith and Mellquist will step down at the end of the spring semester. Smith will continue as a professor in the STS and History faculties. Dean Colombo and Dean for Undergraduate Education Dan Hastings will start a search for a new Housemaster after the new year.