TLO Staff Awarded 2021 Infinite Mile Awards

The TLO is pleased to announce that two of our staff, Marlene Mack, Assistant Director, Operations, and James (Jim) Freedman, Associate Director, Licensing, both also members of the TLO Senior Leadership Team, have each been awarded a 2021 Infinite Mile Award as administered by the Offices of the Provost and Vice President for Research and were honored at a virtual ceremony on May 12, 2021.

The purpose of this program is "designed to recognize those individuals or teams who have made extraordinary contributions within their own organizations to help the Institute carry out its mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. It is recognized that people in all departments and all employment categories make substantial contributions to support this mission."

Nominees for this program exemplify dedication and a willingness to go above and beyond as they serve the MIT community as well as embodying the following attributes and accomplishments:

  • Exhibits professionalism
  • Demonstrates initiative and innovation in carrying out their job
  • Leads or leads by example
  • Serves the greater good
  • Influences others 

Jim and Marlene were supported by a large team of nominators from within the TLO and across MIT with the support of Lesley Millar-Nicholson, Director of the MIT TLO. Director Millar-Nicholson commented, "I am delighted that the outstanding contributions of two members of the TLO senior leadership team, Jim Freedman and Marlene Mack, are being recognized by the 2021 Infinite Mile Awards. Their professionalism, depth of knowledge, and mentorship of TLO staff make them deserving recipients of these renowned awards."

Image of Marlene Mack with text that reads "Highly respected and trusted for her knowledge, professionalism, and kindness."Marlene Mack was lauded by her supporters for her compassionate mentorship and leadership, professionalism, and integrity in her work. Supporting comments included the following: 

"She handles sensitive issues with candor, intelligence and discretion. She is highly respected and trusted for her knowledge, professionalism, and kindness.”

“Among Marlene’s special strengths is her ability to find and hire exceptional young women and men who are the early parts of their professional careers. She is then able to nurture them and, without exception, successfully promote them to more responsible positions within the TLO or, often, to such positions within MIT or elsewhere."

"Marlene leads by example; her curiosity and constant desire to learn instills the same drive in us to remain curious and ask questions. She genuinely cares about her team and provides constant encouragement that empowers us to take up challenges and new opportunities at work. She listens to our opinions, takes personal interest in our growth, and her words and actions are a frequent testament to the fact that she values us not just for the contribution we make at work but for the individual qualities and strengths we have to offer."

“As our jobs have gotten more complex, she has successfully championed the development of new methods for bringing order to what easily could have become chaos.”

“Even as Marlene has been planning for her retirement, she has personally redoubled her efforts towards documenting the complexities of our business for future reference.”

Marlene shared these reflections upon receipt of this award:

"It’s an honor to receive the Infinite Mile award, and I would like to thank both present and former staff who contributed to my nomination for this award. While I may be the recipient of this award, I always feel that the work that any individual does within the TLO is the direct result of many dedicated, diligent colleagues working together to achieve the high standards that our office has. I am extremely thankful to both my TLO colleagues and especially, the Operations and Compliance Team, who work side-by-side with me to help me accomplish assignments, projects, and responsibilities entrusted to me. I couldn’t accomplish what I’m able to accomplish without each of them and their support."

Image of Jim Freedman with text that reads "As a leader and mentor Jim is highly respected."In his role as a licensing officer, Jim Freedman plays an integral part of enabling the transfer of MIT technology through support of MIT inventors and liaisoning with external companies and other stakeholders and is acknolwedged as one of the best negotiators and licensing officers in the TLO's history. His supporters shared their appreciation:

Jim is the kind of leader that truly cares about the people he is responsible for. He listens to all concerns and thoughts intently and is willing to change his approach based upon what is best for all the people involved. 

Jim is an incredibly respected leader of the licensing team. He is such a wealth of knowledge and every time I ask him a question he gives such thoughtful answers and poses philosophical questions and scenarios that really force you to think through the whole scenario. 

I have never been in a meeting or negotiation with Jim where he isn’t exceptionally gracious, direct, and friendly. Early on it was clear to me as I watched him interact with TLAs (and other new-to-MIT people like myself) that he took his job as a mentor and teacher just as seriously as he took his job of managing important IP portfolios. 

He has provided balanced helpful counsel in a supportive way without any ego. He cares deeply about helping MIT innovators commercialize their research, and is happy to stay in the background and not seek the limelight. 

Jim was able to understand the unique needs of an early stage venture company not just spinning out of MIT but partnering back to continue to do research. His willingness to empathize with the different stakeholders was key in finding common ground in the negotiation. He was able to lead the intellectual property team to a novel solution that met the goals of the Institute, the inventors on both sides, and the company. This solution wasn’t just around intellectual property, the bread and butter of the TLO, but factored in how the work will get done, what the incentive structures for the teams on ground would be, and how the investors in the start-up would interpret the transaction. He was also able to convince more skeptical colleagues that this was an experiment worth trying despite the fact that it was truly innovative in a field that often doesn’t see much experimentation.

Jim shared his thoughts on receiving this award: "What 15 years at the TLO has taught me is that any individual accomplishments depend heavily on the entire organization.  Our work is so complex that no one person could succeed alone or even in a small group. I am deeply appreciative for my colleagues, how they contribute every day to our success, and their parts of any recognition I have received."


Posted May 12, 2021