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Northeastern’s Center for STEM Education rededicated in honor of 50-year professor, executive director

Michael B. Silevitch and Claire J. Duggan at a podium at the rededication.
Michael B. Silevitch and Claire J. Duggan were on hand Tuesday to see the Center for STEM Education at Northeastern rededicated in their honor. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Hosting STEM field trips for thousands of students from more than 100 Massachusetts elementary and middle schools. Running summer courses for hundreds of rising high school seniors, offering professional development for STEM teachers, and providing more than 180 scholarships for underrepresented graduate and undergraduate students in the STEM fields. 

These are just a few of the impacts that the Center for STEM Education at Northeastern University has made over the years.

On Tuesday, the Northeastern community gathered to recognize the people behind those impacts — officially rededicating the center as the Michael B. Silevitch and Claire J. Duggan Center for STEM Education. 

“What you have done over the years — both of you — is show the world that you can have an impact,” Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun said at the rededication ceremony held on the eighth floor of the EXP science complex on Northeastern’s Boston campus. “You have inspired people to go into the STEM field and programs.”

Silevitch, the Robert D. Black Professor and Distinguished Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the College of Engineering, is a 50-year professor at Northeastern as well as a triple Husky. He co-founded the center’s predecessor, the Center for the Enhancement of Science and Mathematics Education (CESAME) after offering to help his son Paul and his classmates with science when they were young students in Brookline Public Schools. 

“That led to the idea that we could do something big in helping to create understanding in children in science and math,” Silevitch said. 

Duggan helped Silevitch realize that vision, directing CESAME and serving as executive director of its modern incarnation.

Several collaborators of the education center praised Silevitch and Duggan. 

“Their dedication to increasing support, resources, and an ever growing network of STEM educators has transformed the lives of so many teachers and students,” said Mark Casto, a science teacher in Amesbury Public Schools who has taken part in professional development opportunities at the center. “Teachers in the state are better and more prepared to assist students in being successful.”

Chitra Javdekar, interim vice president of academic affairs and workforce development at the Urban College of Boston, thanked the pair for the support that the center provided her as a STEM educator at a community college.

“Thank you for your service to the entire STEM community in this state and beyond,” Javdekar said. “Our institutions are strengthened, our work was informed and enhanced by this partnership at the center.”

And MaryBeth Rockett, who first met Duggan as a “13-year-old with braces” and got so “hooked on STEM” that she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in bioengineering at Northeastern, praised Duggan as a mentor.

“She works tirelessly to remove barriers for students and educators to access incredibly enriching, challenging programs that she’s established,” Rockett, who now works for Amgen, said. “You’re a tremendous role model, and also, thank you for all your work to arrange ongoing relationships with labs across campus. This allows hundreds of students to receive research experience — your impact is far reaching.”

Both Silevitch and Duggan said they were “humbled” by the honor of being the center’s namesakes.

“I’m humbled by this and the fact that we really impacted the lives of so many children,” Silevitch said. “The issue really is that so many children don’t feel they can do it, and we have to convey to them that they can. Don’t be afraid. Just go and live up to your potential.”

Duggan praised Silevitch and said she was honored to be associated with him and the faculty, staff, and students affiliated with the center.

“It’s because of all of you and this continued commitment that this effort won’t end with the work we’re doing,” Duggan said.

College of Engineering Dean Gregory Abowd concluded the ceremony with thanks, saying that the Michael B. Silevitch and Claire J. Duggan Center for STEM Education will endure forever. 

“My heartfelt thanks to both of you,” Abowd said. “You humbled all of us.”