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MIT dedicates monument to Sean Collier

CAMBRIDGE — Robert Rogers has had many unforgettable experiences in the two years since his stepbrother, MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier, was shot and killed by the Boston Marathon bombers.

Reminiscing Wednesday, Rogers recalled throwing the first pitch at a Fenway Park game and the time he met President Obama.

But nothing equaled the emotional moment this month when he set the final stone on MIT’s 190-ton granite monument to honor Collier and his service to the community.

“It was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Rogers said, standing next to the memorial as onlookers marveled at its design.


Rogers was the project manager for Boston-based Suffolk Construction, which meticulously fit 32 pieces of granite stone together over seven months to complete the work of art.

The curving, star-shaped memorial, which sits near what’s known as North Court at the intersection of Vassar and Main streets, was formally dedicated Wednesday during a somber ceremony that drew hundreds.

Speaking at the dedication, Cambridge Mayor David Maher said the monument will be an enduring symbol of the connection between the city and the institute. It also represents Collier’s contributions to MIT, he said.

“The sheer size and imposing design of the memorial will ensure that all who pass by this site, whether it’s this week, or days from now, or years or decades from now, will know who Officer Collier was, and the spirit that he embodied,” Maher said.

J. Meejin Yoon, head of MIT’s architecture department and the memorial’s lead designer, brought the massive granite blocks together into a single object to reflect the notion of what it means to be “Collier Strong.”

“The idea of being strong, and what is strength, was one of the things on all of our minds, and I wanted the memorial to not only look strong, but to have a position about that strength. So this is strength through many pieces coming together,” Yoon said.


Collier was shot and killed by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev three days after the Marathon bombings. He was sitting in his cruiser on MIT’s campus when the Tsarnaevs ambushed him in a failed attempt to steal his pistol.

The smallest opening on the memorial’s gray walls, described by Yoon as a window of sorts, looks out onto the area where the 27-year-old Collier was murdered. A set of lights placed in the ground nearby mirrors the alignment of the stars that night.

Karen Hogan remembers the evening of Collier’s murder in vivid detail. She was working on campus on April 18, 2013, when the school alerted students and staff to remain indoors.

Running her hands across the smooth stone of the memorial on Wednesday, Hogan said it was the first time since that night that she has revisited the space.

“It’s amazing, and it’s more than I imagined. It brings everything together,” she said.

A standing-room-only crowd gathered under a white tent for the dedication service. Among the crowd were Collier’s relatives; Marathon bombing survivors; officers from the Cambridge, MIT, Watertown, Harvard, and State Police departments; and US Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

After the ceremony, Ortiz gazed upon the structure, calling it a tribute that was symbolic of Collier’s dedication to his job and the community at large.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to remember someone who was so clearly loved,” Ortiz said.


A teary-eyed Maddie Hickman, who grew close to Collier as part of the school’s Outing Club, said she could feel the effort that went into creating the monument.

“It looks awesome,” Hickman said, adding that she plans to spend time there remembering Collier’s engaging personality.

On the outskirts of the main portion of the memorial, red roses were laid out on the granite blocks.

Nearby, MIT Police Chief John DiFava reflected on the day, and said it was a bittersweet occasion. He said the sculpture was more impressive than anything he could have expected of the designers, engineers, and workers who helped bring it all together.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.