Yvonne Gittens: Helping MIT Students Turn on the Light Bulbs
It's safe to say there won’t be a lot of people in this generation who can say they spent their entire career in one workplace. At MIT, one special person made many thoughtful decisions along the way and did just that: Enter Yvonne Gittens.
Gittens came to the Institute in 1965. As noted at an event honoring long-time service at MIT, Gittens “talked of how she first came to interview at MIT, unsure about whether there were jobs for Cambridge kids just out of high school, especially Cambridge kids who happen to be African American. There were, she discovered, and she became a clerk in the Personnel Department.”1
While working as an administrative assistant in various capacities, Gittens used MIT’s tuition assistance program to get her bachelor’s degree. She ultimately received her master’s degree in education at Harvard, and in 1980, was considering two job offers. Luckily for the students she would assist in the years to come, Gittens chose MIT and became the assistant director of financial aid. In 1986, she was promoted to associate director.
After an incredible 42 years of service to MIT, Gittens retired in 2007. At that time she noted in an interview: “One thing I really like about working in financial aid at MIT is that MIT has remained need-based.2 She recalled explaining to many prospective students over the years that you are 'admitted based on what you have in your head and funded based on what you don’t have in your pocket' … I tell them MIT is an expensive school, but it may not cost you that much. You just see the light bulbs going on.”2
Gittens received many honors during her time at MIT, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award in 1989 and the President’s Award for Community Service in 1994. She currently is president of the Quarter Century Club.
Photo: Yvonne Gittens
Next 1990–2000: David Ferriero
Presented by Human Resources at MIT
1. Slice of MIT. “8,000 Years of MIT Experience.”
2. Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education. June 1, 2007. “SFS Says Goodbye to Yvonne Gittens.”
3. MIT Quarter Century Club