Aug 11 2007

Help Me With Some Bathroom Inspiration

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that one of my curious obsessions is bathrooms.  I don’t have an explanation for it – just chalk it up to self-awareness (that I view at it as a curious one.)

Five years ago, I had a conversation with Heidi Roizen.  She had recently been approached by Stanford (her alma mater) about participating in a capital campaign for a new building.  She offered to sponsor a bathroom; Stanford denied this request (something like “not dignified enough.”)  I said “I bet that I can get a bathroom sponsored at MIT” (where I went to school.)  After we had a good laugh, she told me I was on.

I tried.  For a year.  I made several different offers.  Ultimately I was denied.  I never really got a straight answer, but I can only imagine the conversations that were held in the MIT development office.  My inference was that there was a concern that my gift would undermine the name sponsor on whatever building the bathroom was in. 

At MIT, all buildings are known by number (E53, 16, 4) and rooms are correspondingly numbered (E53–301, 16–134, 4–104 – several of the more famous ones are 26–100 and 10–250.)  After wandering the halls for seven years, I don’t know the actual name of a single building or classroom (other than the Green Building), but could find my way around blindfolded if you gave me a number.  Given the culture of MIT, the building that my bathroom would be in would first be known as Building X (90% of the people), then as “The Feld Bathroom Building” (9% of the people), and finally by the actual name associated by whoever gave the $20m+ naming gift (1%).  Oops.

Since moving to Boulder, I’ve been involved in several programs at CU Boulder.  My most significant engagement is with NCWIT (the National Center for Women & Information Technology) where I’m chairman.  It has been an awesome experience and is now housed in one of the newest buildings on CU’s campus – the ATLAS Center.

I was in a meeting with John Bennett, the new president of the ATLAS Institute (ATLAS stands for “Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society) a few weeks ago.  We were talking about NCWIT and a few other ATLAS related things and the MIT bathroom story came up.  John said “I’d be delighted for you to sponsor a bathroom at ATLAS.”  We quickly came to a price for a gift with one condition – that I got to put a plaque up on the wall outside the bathroom with a quote on it that pertains to entrepreneurship.

So – I’m asking for your help.  I’ve come up with a few quotes – none of which I’m happy with yet.  An example is “The Best Ideas Often Come At Inconvenient Times – Don’t Ever Close Your Mind To Them.”  I’m shooting for something that combines entrepreneurship, bathrooms, and the various things people do in bathrooms and is witty while not being obscene or grotesque.

Please comment freely.  Who knows, maybe your name will end up on the plaque also.