Caltech Alumni Association Gives First "Spirit Award"

At this year's Alumni Association annual meeting, four of the eighteen students that participated in the November 2009 "MIT Sold" prank were honored for their Caltech spirit.

This is the inaugural "Spirit Award" given by the Caltech Alumni Association to commemorate extraordinary activities by Caltech undergraduate students, graduate students, and/or postdoctoral scholars which best exemplify the spirit, tradition, and values of Caltech. This Award is given only when the Alumni Association finds that exceptional activities have occurred which merit this special recognition.

“What this award is really about is celebrating Caltech's unique, exceptional culture. Alumni reaction to the ‘MIT Sold’ prank shows that alums of all ages empathize greatly with today's Caltech students and very much enjoy the creativity and initiative that they have shown.” said Caltech Alumni Association President, Jim Simmons, BS '72.


Additional excerpted remarks by CAA President Jim Simmons on the evening of the award:


As our board observed, at Caltech, we do not have a football team or similar “rally points” that larger, more ordinary universities may have. Instead, pranks or other activities often serve thispurpose for Techers and for the Institute. 

As a result, our Board established in January,2012 the CAA Spirit Award to commemorate extraordinary activities by undergrads, grad students, and postdocs which best exemplify the spirit, traditions, and values of Caltech. The Award will not be given every year, but will be given only when the CAA finds that exceptional activities (coordinated with Tom Mannion) have occurred which merit this special recognition.

On November 30, 2009, just over one year after the global financial crisis reverberated throughout universities, 18 enterprising Techers conceived what the CAA Board feels was an exceptionally audacious prank: that MIT was sold to Caltech for financial reasons. A special edition of MIT’s Tech newspaper including a picture of Jean-Lou shaking the MIT President Susan Hockfield’s hand to seal the transaction, a new website for the new “Caltech East”, T-shirts, and large banners across MIT buildings were created.

Here is a sampling of quotes from the special edition of the Tech put out by ourstudents:

1.      “Bowing to extreme financial pressures, MIT administration today made official the sale of the Institute to Caltech. The campus is to be repurposed as Caltech East, a new School of the Humanities, serving as a complementary counterpart to Caltech’s scientific excellence.”

2.      “In compliance with the turnover, the only options now available to Caltech East students are those within the humanities disciplines. . . Undergraduate morale is expected to lift as well, with former MIT students now able to focus on subjects better suited to their intellectual talents.”

3.      “Q and A with Wetzle Pretzle, Caltech Professor of Geophysics:

Question: Will I find these courses too hard?

 Answer: Worry yourself not. You will still be subjected to the same level of rigor you are used to with challenging offerings in subjects like “Letters 21 – Vowels and their Uses” . . .”

4.      From the article “Caltech 101”:

“In order to help you assimilate into Caltech culture, I’ve put together a little dictionary of common phrases and words used at Caltech:

Techer – Person who attends Caltech. Privileged to be getting the finest scientific education in the world.”


Pictured in photo (L-R):

Eugeniu Plamadeala, BS '10; Jordan Theriot, BS '12; Alex Rasmussen, BS '12; Anthony Chong, BS '11; Jim Simmons (President, Caltech Alumni Association) BS '72.