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Alumni Connection

Through the Looking Glass

 Sometimes we look in the mirror and see who we were. Sometimes we see who we are becoming. Sometimes we even see who we are right now. So who are the MIT alumni? What are the trends in alumni composition? How about their attitudes toward the Institute and the Association? What does that portend for the future? The MIT mantra is “Let’s look at the data,” so here are the numbers.

There are 115,382 of us living. Of this population, the Alumni Association has records on 102,245. Overall, 17 percent of alumni are female, but for classes prior to 1970, this percentage is 3 percent or lower. The percentage rises steadily thereafter, with women constituting 32 percent of the classes of the 2000s. Fifty-two percent of alumni have undergraduate degrees. We are concentrated on the coasts, especially in the northeast, Florida, and California, but have strong contingents in Texas and Illinois. We number 19,417 in Massachusetts and 14,345 in California. Our alumni are in 147 different nations, from Afghanistan to Zambia and from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Japan has the largest number of alumni living outside of the U.S., with 1,446, and Canada is next with 1,330.

This past spring, the Association commissioned a survey of alumni attitudes toward the Association and the Institute, and I have had the opportunity to preview the results. Conducted by Opinion Dynamics, the analysis divided us into three groups, according to the years in which we received our degrees. I will call them the Venerables (pre-1969), the Boomers (1969-1987), and the Recents (post-1987).

A total of 1,798 alumni were interviewed, a response rate of more than 40 percent. Our pollsters noted that we are a cooperative group with a higher response rate than other colleges. Opinion Dynamics also noted that we were not shy in ascertaining the authenticity of the solicitation and commenting on the survey methodology. I view the high response rate as evidence of the commitment of our alumni to the Institute.

Alumni were asked what makes them feel good about the MIT of today. Almost all alumni cited some facet of excellence: good education, high standards, good reputation, leadership in technology and science, research, and innovation. This suggests that alumni are heartened by MIT’s continued orientation toward the future and commitment to excellence. We don’t so much hold a nostalgia-based view of our alma mater as realize that MIT was on the cutting edge when we were there and that it needs to remain on the cutting edge today to maintain its excellence.

Are there bad feelings out there among alumni? Clearly, the changes in the fraternity system have made a difference. Eleven percent of undergraduate alumni reported that they feel bad about the fraternity living group issue. The recent release of the FSILG task force report should begin to heal these wounds.

Not surprisingly, Opinion Dynamics commented that we are more wired than other alumni groups and that we do keep up with our alma mater. Ninety-four percent of alumni read Technology Review, and 73 percent have visited an MIT-related website. Web visitation, not unexpectedly, correlates with age. Fifty percent of Venerables, 78 percent of Boomers, and a whopping 94 percent of Recents have made cyber visits to MIT.

The survey found that 36 percent of us do volunteer work, and 77 percent have made monetary contributions to MIT, another statistic strongly related to age: 86 percent of Venerables, 82 percent of Boomers, and 62 percent of Recents have made gifts. And why do we give? “MIT is important to society for the education it provides” was the leading response. Second was “I feel real affection and loyalty to MIT.”

My principal goal for the year is to increase the Association’s effectiveness in leveraging the communications mechanisms that we use to keep in touch with each other and the Institute. By and large, the Institute is doing a good job, with only 6 percent of alumni saying that MIT either does not keep them informed or does not do it very well.

What can our Alumni Association do for us? The Venerables and the Boomers rated “Keeping alumni informed about developments at MIT” as the Association’s most important service. Recents stated that “Providing alumni with an e-mail forwarding service” was most important. Not surprisingly, the least important service to Venerables and Boomers was “Providing social opportunities to alumni.”

The Association board has convened a committee to examine the ways that the Association can use the survey data to help increase the connections between alumni and the Institute, the Association, and each other. Committee recommendations will guide future surveys so that we can track alumni attitudes over time and better measure the effectiveness of our programs.

The data show that even among the Venerables we can use technology to get the word out, which we plan to do. With apologies to the screenwriters of the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, what we can’t have here, and what we won’t have here, is a failure to communicate.

ALC Delivers Ideas and Collaborations

 The 2004 alumni leadership Conference (ALC), held this past October at MIT, began with a surprise and seemed to grow in energy with each event. By the end of the two-day conference, attendees were more than excited about the upcoming year. Said Alumni Association CEO and executive vice president Beth Garvin, “ALC is two full days, but alumni kept the energy on high throughout.” Garvin cited the conference’s closing reception as evidence. “Many alumni stayed more than an hour after the event was supposedly over,” said Garvin. “It is simply uplifting to connect with alumni volunteers and hear their stories and experiences.”

By all accounts, ALC 2004 continued the tradition of success that ALC conferences have enjoyed for more than a decade. This year’s conference, entitled “Focused Innovation, Global Collaboration: Alumni and MIT Lead the Way,” featured a weekend of seminars, workshops, and networking events designed to allow alumni volunteers to exchange ideas and experiences and meet key members of the Institute.

The surprise of the conference came at the keynote address. With a crowd of more than 200 alumni volunteers filling Kirsch Auditorium at MIT’s new Stata Center, Dana Mead, PhD ’67, keynote speaker and chairman of the MIT Corporation, announced that a surprise speaker had arrived to make a few remarks. Mead was referring to President-elect Susan Hockfield, who had taken time to address the alumni leadership before returning to her duties as provost at Yale.

Hockfield, describing her remarks as informal, said she could not pass up an opportunity to address the alumni leadership, for she knows how alumni “form the fabric of MIT.”

Chairman Mead followed with a report on how MIT went about its search for the new president, an ideal topic for a weekend of leadership discussions. Mead cited strong collaboration between all three search committees—faculty, students, and corporation officers—and particularly stressed the unprecedented involvement of the student committee.

Saturday morning’s plenary session, led by Alumni Association president Linda C. Sharpe ’69, welcomed speakers Dick K. P. Yue ’74, associate dean of engineering; Henry Jenkins, John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities and director of the Comparative Media Studies Program; Shigeru Miyagawa, Kochi Prefecture–
John Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture; and MIT president Charles M. Vest HM.

The Alumni Awards Luncheon followed, as alumni jammed the La Sala de Puerto Rico room at the Stratton Student Center, where this year’s alumni award winners were announced.

Workshops and clinics followed the luncheon and proved to be the perfect combination of brainstorming and planning, as young alumni, veteran class and club officers, educational counselors, and Enterprise Forum chapter members shared ideas on how to enhance the overall experience of MIT alumni.

The full schedule didn’t deter alumni from attending the ALC closing reception in the Zesiger Center lobby, as an MIT student jazz band entertained a packed house and brought the productive weekend to a close.

Said Christine Tempesta, director of alumni activities, “ALC is an important conference for alumni volunteers. It’s an opportunity to share best practices and build important relationships with other alumni and Institute leaders. It’s an event we look forward to each year.”

Images from ALC 2004

Association president Linda C. Sharpe ’69 and President-elect Susan Hockfield Enterprise Forum volunteers Carol Covin and Susan Walker
Neil Kaden ’76 and Luda Kopeikina, SM ’90, enjoy a forum workshop. Masanori Nagashima, SM ’76, visits with Uche Enuha ’05.
Alumni Association executive vice president Elizabeth A. Garvin HM Dhaya Lakshminarayanan ’96 and Ben Matteo ’97 visit with Bill Reenstra ’72.
Homer Eckhardt ’45 chats with Jahnavi Swamy ’95. Bronze Beaver winners (l to r): John A. McGann ’54
Gregory E. Moore ’73
Charles M. Vest HM
Rebecca M. Vest HM
Lobdell Award winners (l to r): R. Robert Wickham ’93
Sharon C. Ross ’65
William Maley ’48
Robert D. Warshawer ’54 Annalisa L. Weigel ’94
Yenwith K. Whitney ’49
Nicolas E. Chammas, CE ’87
Morgan Award winners (l to r): Elaine A. Martel ’83
Peter H. Richardson ’48
Joseph G. Kubit ’70
Donald R. Findlay ’79
Victor K. Chung ’61
Kane Award winners (l to r): Wendell E. Bearce ’32
Yevgeny Gurevich ’94
Reynold A. Grammer Jr. ’45
James A. Monk Jr. ’64
Robert Sandman ’48 enjoys breakfast with students.
Presidential Citation award winners (l to r):
Glorimar Ripoll ’01
Thomas D. Halket ’70
Ramon San Pedro ’86
L. Robert Johnson ’63
Milton Roye ’78
John Jarve ’78
Kenan Sahin ’63

Save These Important Dates

Mark your calendars for a number of interesting alumni events coming up this spring.

First, on April 30, 2005, the Alumni Association will sponsor a special conference that will explore and celebrate leaders and innovators among MIT alumnae. The weekend conference will include a variety of events and seminars. For more information, contact associate director of alumni education Kim Cole at

Also, mark down April 9, 2005, in the calendar, as that is the date of the Alumni Association’s very popular seminar series, MIT On the Road, which returns this year with a scheduled event in Washington, DC. Alumni near the Washington, DC, area are encouraged to attend and meet what promises to be a remarkable lineup of MIT faculty.

Earlier this year, MIT On the Road held its first event of this academic year in Southern California. The event featured a number of noted MIT professors, including Professor David W. Miller ’82 of MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, director of MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory; Nancy Kanwisher ’80, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience; and Kip Hodges ’82, professor of geology and codirector of MIT’s Earth System Initiative.

And finally, alumni living near the cities that are home to MIT’s three largest clubs, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC, are reminded that regional clubs hold a number of events throughout the year featuring MIT faculty, leading alumni, and other interesting speakers. All MIT alumni are welcomed at these club events, so if you live near or travel to any of these cities, check out their club schedules of events by visiting the Alumni Association website at

One-of-a-Kind Travel Experience: Tanzania

The MIT alumni travel program is offering a one-of-a-kind travel experience entitled Tanzania: A Glimpse into the Lives of Traditional and Modern Women in Tanzania.

Scheduled from January 30 to February 12, 2005, this multidimensional journey will take you into the homes, businesses, and villages of the rural, urban, and traditional women of Tanzania. Leading this special trip is MIT professor of anthropology Jean Jackson, who will add insight and put our trip experiences into a global context.

This unique African trip also includes visits to Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara National Park, Gibb’s Farm, and the famed Olduvai Gorge.

Please call 800-992-6749 or e-mail for more details. You can also view trip information on our website at

End-of-Year Reminder

With the end of the year fast approaching, alumni are reminded that gifts to the MIT Alumni Fund must be received on or before December 31, 2004, if they are to take advantage of tax laws for this year. MIT counts on the regular annual giving of alumni for the continued success of the Institute. The Alumni Fund Board has set new goals for fiscal year 2005, seeking to raise $31.5 million from 32,500 donors. Please continue to support MIT through the Alumni Fund, which plays a vital role in MIT’s financial and academic well-being. Join the thousands of alumni, parents, and friends who support MIT each year by sending your gift no later than December 31, 2004.

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