The pride parents feel when their children graduate from their alma maters is amplified at MIT, where prospective students gain no admissions advantage from having alumni relatives. Acceptance is a personal accomplishment, not a legacy. Only 73 of the 1,107 undergraduates in the Class of 2005 have alumni family members, a mere 6.59 percent.
Some families, however, have abundant MIT connections. Professor Victor Zue, ScD ‘76, codirector of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, boasts that he and his extended family have earned at least 15 MIT degrees.
Bakrs Begin in 1967
In 1967, Mohammed Bakr ‘71 became one of the first three Saudis to attend MIT. While his courses were grueling, Bakr did well as a civil-engineering major. Still, he hesitated when, 30 years later, his oldest son wanted to apply to MIT.
“I did not encourage him to do so because of the competition and the pressure I had at MIT when I was here,” Bakr says. However, Omar Bakr ‘01, Mng ‘03, waved off his father’s warnings, and the computer science and electrical-engineering student had a very different experience.
“I didn’t realize MIT has changed since I was here,” Mohammed says. “There’s more a sense of caring for the students. That makes a difference at MIT. It makes it more rewarding and more human.”
Omar was followed by Osman ‘03, who studied materials science, and Aala ‘05, who earned her management degree in June with the entire family watching. The family’s ties to MIT will remain strong: in 1999, Mohammed Bakr founded the Saudi Arabia MIT Alumni Club, which now has 40 members. Make that 41.
Grochows Complete a Circle
Many alumni credit the success of their careers to their MIT education, but Rebecca Grochow ‘01 and her brother, Joshua ‘05, owe their very existence to the Institute. Their parents met 37 years ago in a professor’s office. Jerrold Grochow ‘68, PhD ‘74, was smitten when he saw Louise ‘71. A friend arranged a date, setting in motion events that would lead them back to MIT to see both children graduate. Joshua received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in June and stayed on to study computer science and engineering. For him, there was never a question of where to apply.
“When I visited MIT, I felt I was home,” Joshua says. “This could have something to do with the fact that when I grew up, every single story I heard from my parents had to do with MIT.”
Rebecca, however, had other plans. “Rebecca told us for 17 years that she wasn’t interested in MIT,” says Jerrold, now the Institute’s vice president for information services and technology. She wouldn’t even let her father schedule MIT into their visits to Boston-area colleges, but Jerrold applied parental psychology.
“Somehow or other we happened to have a couple extra hours before our flight, and we happened to be real close to MIT at the time,” he remembers. “And I kind of conned her into it. It was either visit MIT or go walk the Freedom Trail.”
Grabowskis Send Three
An MIT educational counselor who has vetted hundreds of applicants to the Institute, Ralph Grabowski ‘63 did not assume his own offspring would be suited to it. But he was thrilled when three of the five decided they were. “My attitude always was, MIT is not for everybody,” he says.
His son, John ‘95, exhibited the signs early on, writing computer graphics programs at 11. In high school, John attended MIT Enterprise Forums with his father. His sister Holly ‘97 followed along, studying computer science.
The youngest sibling, Rose ‘05, was initially scared by tales of backbreaking workloads and little sleep. But as she investigated business schools, she found that the Sloan School offered the best program. At MIT, Rose served as speaker of the Student Senate, faculty advisory committee member, and cochair of the Ring Committee.
She’s proud that half of her family has ties to the Institute. “After graduation, we joked about which of our parents’ grandchildren are going to go to MIT,” she says. – By Sharron Kahn Luttrell