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What’s one memento you kept from your time at MIT?

Alumni share what they saved from their days at the Institute.

Alumni leave MIT armed with knowledge and a whole lot of memories. During Tech Reunions in 2023, the MIT Alumni Association asked returning alums what else they had held onto since leaving campus. Here are just a few of their responses. 

Diane Marie McKnight ’75, SM ’78, PhD ’79, kept a bronze oarlock used for securing an oar on a boat. “I sand-casted it myself as part of my last class in mechanical engineering, and I learned how to use a lathe,” she said.

Amy (Schonsheck) Simpkins ’03 got her Institute keepsake early— a “cheap hoodie sweatshirt that was on special at the Coop the first week of my freshman year.” She still wears it almost every day.

Alan Paul Lehotsky ’73 said that in addition to his brass rat, he still has the Groucho glasses he wore to graduation. He admitted that the mustache has not held up very well.

Elliot Owen ’18, SM ’20, still has the precision-machined aluminum flexures that he used for his graduate research. “It is easy to create structures with a low stiffness in the direction of travel and high stiffness in all other directions,” he said. “I keep them on my bookshelf and show them off when I have people over. Most people are very surprised to see a solid piece of metal flex and move so easily and without friction.”

Walt Gibbons ’73, SM ’75, had the most popular response, provided by 22 of the 69 alums interviewed. He named his MIT brass rat.

“I kept a propeller from one of the first planes I ever built,” said Morgan Ferguson ’23. “It was a spare propeller from a plane that I worked on as part of a team of undergraduate and graduate students at MIT that develop aircraft for the annual AIAA [American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics] Design/Build/Fly competition. I continue to work on these planes.” His latest aircraft is shown above.

Jeanne Yu ’13 said, “The one thing I kept from MIT was my sense of resilience.”

Check out the recent MIT alumni video about physical objects grads have kept—and why they kept them—at bit.ly/MITMemento.

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