Learning from Mistakes: The 2019 Harbison Lecture

Upper School students gathered in Brauer Audtorium on Friday, October 18 to hear from Anthony Chivetta ’08, this year’s guest speaker for the Harbison Lecture. (See Mr. Chivetta’s full presentation below.)

Lucas McCarty ’21 introduced Mr. Chivetta, who is currently the Engineer Manager of the Darwin Evolution Team at Apple Incorporated. His resume still lists his roles of electrician and followspot operator for Fiddler on the Roof and sound operator for the Blue Whale Cafe his 9th grade year, as well as many other productions as lighting designer, carpenter, master electrician and technical director at MICDS, in college and beyond. He has contributed to app design and debugging since he was a high school student. He started what we now know as MICDS StuTech—students at the technology help desk—and presented his StuTech program at an education conference.

Graduating from MICDS in 2008, Mr. Chivetta also was the honored recipient of the Mitchell Science Award for Excellence in Science, the J. Even Phillips Award for Excellence in Dramatics and the Eric Lewis Award presented to the student who has made the greatest contribution in a non-competitive manner to MICDS Athletics during his Senior year. He also received the Morse Family Award, which is presented to a senior by vote of classmates for respect for others, generous nature and devotion to the school that has made significant, lasting contributions to our community.

Mr. Chivetta graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 2010 with a degree in computer science, and his course work included classes named Very Large Information Systems, Operating Systems Design and Implementation, Memory and Resource Big Data Computation and Welding. Mr. Chivetta also earned a minor in Drama focusing on Lighting and Electrics and received the Senior Leadership Recognition Award for his substantial contributions to the Carnegie Mellon community.

Mr. Chivetta has worked at Intel Labs Pittsburgh as a system administrator and interned as a Performance Engineer at Salesforce.com and at Apple. In 2012, Apple hired him as an OS X Performance Engineer, and he now is the Engineer Manager of the Darwin Evolution Team.

In addition to speaking to the Upper School, Mr. Chivetta spent quite a bit of time on campus throughout the week. He spoke at the Middle School Meeting and visited with students in Computer Science and Robotics classes. He then spent a day and a half serving on the MICDS Board of Visitors.

At the Upper School assembly, he spoke about places where technology and engineering have gone wrong and how we learned from them and grew from those experiences…and maybe how we’re not. He referenced several well-known catastrophes, such as the Boston molasses tank explosion and the space shuttle Challenger, explaining what happened along the way and how tragedies could have been prevented. He also talked about how technology today is manipulated using “dark patterns” to trick users into doing things they don’t mean to do. Technology isn’t neutral, said Mr. Chivetta, so we need to be skeptical.

Mr. Chivetta, your MICDS classmates chose wisely when they recognized you with the Morse Family Award. Thank you for your message at this year’s Harbison Lecture and your continued service to MICDS.

The Harbison Lecture is named on behalf of Mr. Earle H. and Mrs. Suzanne Siegel Harbison ’45. Mrs. Harbison graduated from Mary Institute in 1945, beginning a long lineage of Harbisons to attend the School. For as long as the Harbisons have been members of the School community, they have made MICDS a philanthropic priority—remaining deeply committed to ensuring our students have access to outstanding faculty, great learning spaces and excellent programming that supplements the classroom experience.

Mr. and Mrs. Harbison established the Harbison Lecture Fund in 1994 to commemorate Mrs. Harbison’s 50th Class Reunion. Its purpose is “to fund an annual lecture for students at MICDS featuring a prominent local, regional or national figure whose topic will support the Mission and educational goals of the School.” Because the Harbison family strongly values the sciences, the School has historically chosen a leading figure in the sciences to speak to Upper School students.