Nobody, to my admittedly leaky awareness, has ever written a book entitled “1985.” And the actual year that bore that number, unlike the one that preceded it, doesn’t stand out in my memory for unusually-parlous political conditions or commemorations. I was marking time at Linkabit to pay the bills, not in any gross distress, but with no discernible sense of achievement or career progress. Valerie’s income from day-care helped a great deal, especially as for the first time* we were joyfully responsible for the support of a missionary in the field.
Academic: MIT Educational Council
For a bunch of years, twenty-some in all, I’d served as Arlington’s representative to the MIT Educational Council. That meant that when a high-school senior from Arlington (graduating either from Arlington High or, more rarely, from one of the Town’s two parochial secondary schools) decided to apply to MIT, the Admissions Office would send my coordinates with instructions to arrange an interview as part of the application process. We’d then meet for an hour or so, usually at Timbaloo, and I’d compose a report for the file.

More often than not, I’d form the impression that the candidates I met would be happier and more successful elsewhere than at “The ‘Tute’” and would try to bring them to a similar point of view. Particularly in those numerous cases where the candidate clearly aspired to fit into a vocational slot well-defined by traditional disciplinary boundaries, I’d recount one of the wisest bits of reality-based advice I was given in my first days in Cambridge: “Please don’t expect us to teach you how to do what you’ll be doing, twenty years down the road: chances are that the very name of that endeavor hasn’t yet occurred to anybody.”

The young folks I tended to recommend most highly, and to whom I most highly recommended MIT, were those who relished the prospect of stepping beyond the boundaries of customary practice and the rules that have been productive in the past. I remember with greatest pleasure two young women who approached college with the desire to combine old disciplines into new ones. On behalf of each, I counselled the MIT admissions apparatus to run, not walk, to offer her a place in the next freshman class. They did. Each is well-remembered at MIT as a disciplined but energetic innovator.

I don’t recall that the “Educational Council” ever met as a body or functioned as one might expect a council to do. Maybe the idea was that we counseled kids and admissions officers. Never addressed the issue with either group. But I did notice that, when I represented MIT at “College Fairs” and such gatherings, I tended to be the only unpaid college representative present. It may speak well for MIT that its volunteer alumni seem to do an adequate job of representing it to potential “customers.” It surely helps that MIT’s prestige guarantees it a large excess of applicants.
*As it has turned out, the only time. Though we have been privileged to help out other family members with their missionary expenses.
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