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Class of 2005 Alumni Progeny Find Personal Paths to MIT

For three members of the Class of 2005, graduating from the Institute runs in the family.
September 1, 2005

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

Angel Investors Share Funding Strategies for Startups

A record 54 sites worldwide tuned in to the June 1 global broadcast of the MIT Enterprise Forum’s discussion “Angel Groups in Action: Funding Early Stage Innovation.” The 554-strong audience at Kresge Auditorium learned that angels are mostly seed and startup investors who make an average commitment of $400,000 of their own money. They were also advised that a successful partnership depends on a strong relationship between angel and entrepreneur, where both partners enjoy working together and can agree on business goals. In September, the online video of the discussion will be available at MIT World:

The next global broadcast, slated for a September 22 event in Atlanta, will feature projects funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts that aim to revolutionize how NASA develops and conducts missions. Learn more by visiting the Enterprise Forum’s website at

Padilla to Keynote Leadership Conference on Excellence

Los Angeles City Council president Alex Padilla ‘94 will present the keynote address at the September 23-24 Alumni Leadership Conference (ALC) at MIT. Padilla, one of L.A.’s youngest elected city officials, will share lessons about excellence in public service.

The ALC theme, Celebrating Excellence, underscores the quality of education and research at the Institute, of the alumni network, and of alumni activities. The Alumni Association’s top volunteer awards will be presented at the event, which will include community-building workshops and faculty talks.
Faculty speakers will discuss outstanding research. Nobel laureate H. Robert Horvitz ‘68, David H. Koch Professor of Biology, will speak on “Cell Suicide: Programmed Cell Death in Development and Disease.” Claude Canizares, Bruno Rossi Professor of Experimental Physics and associate director for MIT of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center, will give a talk titled “Observing the Violent Universe.” Check the ALC schedule and register online at

Tech Reunions Reunite Friends through Activities, Shared Goals

More than 3,000 alumni and guests came to campus June 2–5 to reconnect with friends, learn about advances in research and education at MIT, announce class reunion gifts totaling $138 million, and visit favorite haunts on campus and off.

The Class of 1950 turned in record-breaking 55th-reunion attendance with more than 170 participants, while the Class of 1955 had the greatest attendance at Tech Reunions 2005, with more than 340 alumni and guests. Yardley Chittick ‘22, who was recently featured on NPR as the oldest patent attorney in the U.S., returned to celebrate his 83rd reunion.

Reunion classes from 1935 through 2000 and the graduating Class of 2005 reported the results of their fund-raising at a rousing Technology Day luncheon at the Johnson Athletic Center June 4. The results, announced by MIT Alumni Association president Linda Sharpe ‘69, were a total of $138,563,600 raised.

The largest contribution came from the Class of 1940, which reported a 65th-reunion total of $109.4 million over a five-year period, counting gifts and bequests from 69 percent of the class. The Class of 1955 presented a 50th-reunion gift total of $7 million from 65 percent of the class. A 40th-reunion gift total of $1.9 million came from 64 percent of the Class of 1965. And the Class of 1980, which set a 25th-reunion gift participation record of 84 percent, gave $3 million. The Class of 2005 presented a senior gift of $31,742, earmarked to support a student lounge off Lobby 10.

Some 200 alumni reunion volunteers and the MIT Alumni Association staff organized more than 110 events, from the annual Technology Day, which focused on MIT’s role in life sciences and bioengineering, to the Class of 2000’s Red Sox outing (Red Sox 6, Anaheim Angels 13. Ouch!). Read event coverage on the MIT Alumni Association website at and see MIT News pages 6 and 7 for more.

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