A "legendary figure in the department" - "one of the lynch pins" - "the glue that holds the department together" - "truly major, unique, and rather ubiquitous support" - high praise for a humble man "with a beautiful heart."
In recognition of his thoughtful, careful and dedicated approach to establishing and maintaining the research facilities of the Aeronautics and Astronautics department, Vadim Matté was named the winner of the 2001 Marsh O'Neill Award for excellence in support of research at Stanford University.
Vadim Matté joined the Aero/Astro department at Stanford in 1959, and has been helping everyone in that department ever since. His accomplishments range from setting up and leveling a 20-ton granite block to locating surplus office furniture for a newly arrived faculty member, from building a hypersonic wind tunnel to translating for visiting international scientists. After the Loma Prieta earthquake, he worked tirelessly to help reopen the Durand, Terman and McCullough buildings - a task in which his knowledge of "every nook and cranny" of those buildings was invaluable. And after tending to the campus, Vadim helped reconnect utilities, turn on a pilot light, or fix a broken door at someone's home.
The Aero/Astro department teaches only at the graduate level, and for decades, students have relied on Vadim's expertise to build research apparatus and experimental equipment, learning the fine points of machine tools as well as critical safety factors. Scores of PhDs "learned the ropes" with Vadim and gratefully acknowledged his contribution in their theses.
Known for his kindness and good humor, as well as his dedication and skill, Vadim once picked up a graduate student stranded in Gilroy at 2 in the morning. Learning that a faculty member had severe arthritis, Vadim crafted a cherrywood cane with a curved handle. One faculty member reported how students love him - they see him as a 'big brother.' He went on to say "To me, Vadim is also my big brother."
Vadim's position at the heart of the Aero/Astro department for over four decades also qualifies him as a historian. Among other contributions, he has helped with the refurbishment of William Durand's original research for the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. Another faculty member says "His relationship with students, faculty, and staff has been the glue that held the department closer for many years."
Born in the south of France, Vadim immigrated to Canada where he worked on jet engines for Rolls Royce. He was living in southern California when a childhood friend, a Stanford graduate student in French and Russian literature, suggested that he come to the Bay area. He moved to Menlo Park and was soon hired by the fledgling Aero/Astro department at Stanford. His long association with that department is a source of great satisfaction to Vadim. "My department had a closeness. I loved all those people very much. [The O'Neill award] is the most beautiful souvenir."
From the Stanford Report, October 31, 2001
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