Beyond the Infinite
Beyond the Infinite, Summer 2014
Bridging a 50-year generational gap through service
How do you bridge generational gaps and forge a connection? Through service, according to the Class of 1967 and the Class of 2017. To celebrate the 50-year connection between their two classes, this year's freshmen Class of 2017 has been collaborating with the Class of 1967 to develop joint events and opportunities for the two classes.
The centerpiece of the connection is the Community Service Initiative, through which the joint class councils have pledged to engage their classes in 10,000 hours of service before 2017, when this year's freshmen will graduate and when the class of 1967 members will join the Cardinal & Gray Society and don their signature cardinal jackets.
In the spirit of this initiative, the classes worked together at the Ceremony of Remembrance for Officer Sean Collier on April 18. Members of both classes served as ushers and facilitated the illumination of "179" – Officer Collier's badge number – in the windows of the Green Building that night. Members of freshman class also assisted MIT Police in packaging and distributing 179 seedlings to members of the MIT community.
The Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center has been advising the classes on their service initiative, and here, we spoke with 2017 President Liana Ilutzi, 2017 Secretary Larkin Sayre, 1967 President Bob Ferrara '67, and 1967 Vice President John Ross '67, PhD '74.
Q. How did this connection between the two classes come to be?
Liana: Being that the '67s are MIT's 100th graduating class and we'll be the 150th graduating class, the Alumni Association wanted us to have this class connection. We started meeting with each other's council and describing how we want this to happen and what we want to do with this. We've arrived at this public service initiative and we felt that the '67s had the experience and the guidance that could help us with this.
Bob: We didn't know what we were getting in to, but it's been fun and those of us that have been involved in it love it.
Q. What does public service mean to you and your class?
Larkin: I think it's looking outside of the MIT bubble. It's important to remember that there's a whole community that we live in. MIT is an integral part of that community, but as we're so lucky to be students here and take these amazing classes, it's important not to take these things for granted and to take a little bit of responsibility for the area that we live in. I think a lot of 17s agree with that. And public service is something that can be fun to do, and it's something you can do together.
Bob: Once [the '17s] suggested the public service initiative, I think all of us looked at each other and said, "That's it." That's a way for us to connect all of our class all over the country. We're at the point in our lives where we've climbed all the ladders and now it's time to give back.
Q. Why was participating in the ceremony of remembrance for Officer Collier important for you classes?
Liana: Even though we're freshmen, it was the day after our CPW that the marathon bombing happened. There was an impact felt on campus and in the prefrosh that had just left or that were still on campus. The tragedy is something that shapes the MIT community in general – for people that have already graduated, for people coming to MIT, for now and in the years forward, so I think it's important to recognize that and celebrate Office Collier's memory.
John: The other thing that's very typically MIT...we had talked a little bit about if there's a way we could marry the idea of hacks and honor. And the idea came up if there's something we could do with the Green Building, and we started a discussion that ultimately led to the illumination of his badge number  in the windows.
Q. What are you learning from your interactions between the two classes?
Larkin: I think we're surprisingly similar in mindset. As MIT students and alumni, we're sort of an interesting subset of people. We're all very enthusiastic, and they're really hard workers, so I've been very impressed by their organization. And they've been learning a lot from us – the way we approach tasks is different, apparently because we grew up in a different generation. But we're learning a lot from them about how to plan events and how to maintain a connection with MIT.
John: I've been learning an incredible amount from the '17s. They've got energy, they've got insight, they've got focus. They're willing to do things that I would've just sat back and said, "oh that's ok, someone else will do it," but instead they're drawing me and my classmates into doing things they're really committed to. It's been incredibly rewarding for me.