Ken Stone ‘72, Director of the Hobby Shop, Retires after a Quarter Century of Service to MIT
Tucked away in the basement of the du Pont Center Gymnasium is a place that captures MIT’s spirit of learning by doing. The MIT Hobby Shop allows students to turn their ideas into a reality and has been a cornerstone of MIT’s education with the leadership of Director Ken Stone ’72.
MIT’s Hobby Shop was founded in 1938 by a group of students looking for a makers’ space. In the 78 years of its existence, Ken Stone has captained the shop for just over 25 years. His endless dedication of the Hobby Shop is nothing short of extraordinary; he has led a major renovation of the shop, made equipment upgrades, improved training for shop safety, spearheaded website improvements, and cultivated relations between alumni and both campus and local communities, including developing an outreach program with The Boston Home.
The Division of Student Life celebrated Stone’s 25 years of contributions to the MIT community with a retirement party in which colleagues, current and former students, friends, and family all gathered to express their gratitude for Stone’s dedication and service to MIT.
Marcel Thomas SB ‘12, SM ‘14, and current PhD student in Course 2 first came to the Hobby Shop after his first year of undergrad. During his time there, he built a jenga pistol and electric guitar. The Hobby Shop allowed Thomas to apply what he learned in class and motivated him to continue to learn more skills for his side projects. Thomas attributes his ability to create things in the Hobby Shop from Stone’s teaching technique.
“He gives a good balance of freedom and guidance. He gives you the instruction to make sure you are doing things safely, and he gives you the freedom to do things how you want, and if you ask he can give you direction to do things how you want,” he said.
An alumna echoed these statements to share how Stone empowered her with valuable career skills. She said when she is faced with a nebulous problem, Stone taught her how to break it down into digestible pieces.
“He helped me develop that problem-solving thinking process that is hands-on,” she said. “It is the heart of what MIT is about: Mens et Manus, and it really came together for me at the Hobby Shop.”
As Assistant Director Hayami Arakawa steps into the role as Director of the Hobby Shop, Arakawa thanked Stone for his guidance and mentorship as an educator.
“I get to learn everything from Ken before I get to apply it. He has been very generous, very kind, and a great teacher in that way. I’ll take being his right-hand man any day,” he continued, “one of the best things I am going to take away with Ken is that dedication, that patience to the individuals and the Hobby Shop.”
The resounding sentiment in the room was that Stone has humbly touched many people on campus. Director of the Campus Activities Complex Phil Walsh described the collegiality and peer consulship he has with Stone, but finished with, “I am going to miss your friendship most of all.”
Dean of Student Life Chris Colombo expressed that part of his understanding of the MIT culture of makership is due to Stone’s stewardship in the Hobby Shop, but was touched beyond a professional nature. Colombo shared the anecdote of receiving a handmade cutting board as a gift from Stone. Not only does the board get regular use at home by Colombo’s family, but it even travels with them to their summer home. This cutting board symbolizes that Stone’s gestures of generosity resound deeply with special meaning to their recipients.
“Thank you for all the things our students learn in your community,” said Colombo, “Thank you for making MIT the very special place that it is.”
Just as he has positively impacted many at MIT, in turn Stone expressed the impact his career experiences have had on him, stating that coming back to MIT as the Director of the Hobby Shop was one of the best things that has happened in his life.
“Having a job that is exciting, challenging, and somehow just fits you is a blessing. I feel extremely lucky and grateful. I am proud of the Hobby Shop. It’s humble name grossly understates the important work that has been done and will continue to be done in it.”