In my first year of coaching at MIT, I remember saying to one of my players, a particularly candid student, that I was going to begin to recruit players for MIT. I'd just arrived from Penn State, and there, recruiting student-athletes was the norm...not so at MIT in those years! She thought for a moment and said to me, "Coach, you'd be better off going to math competitions and seeing if they also play tennis than looking for ranked tennis players!" She was right at that time. It's so exciting for me to see that we ARE able to recruit the RIGHT students, academically and athletically, to MIT now, and with great support of MIT community.
MIT has always been a pillar of academic excellence, but with the help of Candace Royer and her 33 years of dedication to the Institute, MIT Athletics has become a consistently formidable force regionally and nationally in many of its sports. Royer believes her two most notable contributions to the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) to be working with colleagues to build the Al '51 and Barrie Zesiger Sport and Fitness Center and to regain the "right and privileges of tenure" afforded to faculty coaches in 2004 after they were lost for seven years. "Imbedded in both of these accomplishments is getting to know our students, academic faculty, and our coaching staff very well," said Royer. "I would put our administrative staff forward as one of the best, collective, group of administrators across all NCAA divisions. I loved working with each and every one of them very much."
As an institution, MIT does not award honorary degrees. The greatest honor that can be bestowed on an individual is to make them an honorary alumnus/a, recognizing outstanding service to the MIT Alumni Association and/or the Institute. In all of MIT's history, only 172 people have been selected as honorary alums.
Royer described that the MIT value of a strong work ethic not only lies within faculty and students, but also among all the employees. "The men and women on grounds crews, in union shops, housekeeping, administration, and so forth put forward a great effort to keep our campus attractive and running smoothly."
Paul Rudovsky '66 recalled difficult times for DAPER prior to Royer taking the helm. "She brought clarity and purpose to the department, and the impact was obvious to DAPER staff as well as students, faculty members, and MIT staff," he said. "She has been instrumental in helping DAPER achieve its goals and has served as a wonderful mentor to many students and staff members."
Former student-athletes echoed this sentiment. Pardis Sabeti '97, now Associate Professor at Harvard, met Royer as a sophomore 20 years ago on the tennis courts of MIT. Since then Sabeti still calls her a close contact and mentor. "She is always encouraging, always supportive, and always caring." Royer was coach to Emilie "Mimi" Slaughter '87, '88 who attributes her participation on the varsity tennis team under Royer as a significant factor in her success at MIT.
Pamela Gannon '84 had Royer as a physical education instructor for squash, and the significance of her impact reached far beyond court walls. "She made a huge impression as an approachable female mentor figure," described Gannon. "The percentage of women undergraduates at MIT was 18%; there were only a handful of female faculty members, and female teaching assistants were rare. Candace's involvement in the athletic program and presence on campus was a tremendous benefit and support to women at MIT."
Royer came to MIT in 1981 and served 14 years as the head coach of the women's varsity tennis team and director of the J.B. Carr Indoor Tennis Center while serving concurrently for 10 years as the Assistant Director of Physical Education, where she became a tenured Associate Professor of Physical Education in 1987. She later became the first woman Department Head of DAPER and Director of Athletics from 2001-06, overseeing 41 varsity teams, 30 club sport teams, and nearly 150 employees. Royer then moved from DAPER to become Senior Associate Dean for Student Life from 2007-09, after which she served the rest of her MIT term as Associate Director of Resource Development.
While at MIT, Royer was a member of the Board of Directors of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association as a Division III representative, the MIT Committee on Undergraduate Program, Board of Directors of The Endicott House, and served as chair of the Committee on Student Life in 2002. In addition to sitting on various other committees, she was named the National Division III Tennis Coach of the Year in 1985 and received the esteemed James Everett Baker Teaching Award in 1987. For her impassioned service to the MIT community, Royer was named an Honorary Alumna this past Commencement.
Beginning within DAPER, Royer exemplified MIT's pursuit and practice of excellence as a professional, but she broadened the definition of this commitment. "MIT is a community of excellence. Anyone who is employed at MIT for a few years or more is enriched by those around them." Royer continued, "It is also a community of acceptance and humanity. People think deeply, care deeply, and give of themselves in ways that cannot be measured."
Royer combined these two facets of MIT culture to empower women. As someone beginning her career in higher education in 1977, Royer describes leadership for women as an "oxymoron" in those early years. "I decided a long time ago that if ever I rose to a position where I could help women become leaders, I would pursue that path." Royer honored her oath by creating and teaching the freshman leadership seminar "Good to Great for Women" with Dean Julie Norman. By introducing leadership to MIT women in their first year they would be able to have opportunities to test out their leadership styles and tools throughout their collegiate career. To this day, former students seek out Royer and Norman for counsel.
Royer credits much of the richness of her teaching experience to the inquisitive nature and questioning minds of her pupils. "They asked great questions, listened to my answers, and probed even deeper; it's what they do, and I loved it!"
In reflecting on the significance of this recent award Royer said, "I hold our alumni in the highest regard. To be considered an honorary alumna, a part of this distinguished Alumni Association, is one of the, if not the greatest honor of my personal and professional life."