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Class of 1991 gift will fund teachers

By Joanna E. Stone

The 1991 Senior Gift Committee has decided to pledge its class gift money to a cause higher than higher education. The senior gift will be used to create the MIT Teaching Fund, a loan forgiveness program to encourage MIT graduates to become public school teachers.

The committee decided on this gift because it would give MIT students an opportunity to give something extremely valuable back to the community.

"Teachers are more important than engineers or architects or even university professors," said Jason B. Slibeck '91, chair of the gift committee. "We'll never have another engineer or architect or professor if we don't support the K-through-12 system."

The MIT Teaching Fund has been set up as a five-year program, beginning this year. It will enable the Institute to forgive a portion of the recipients' educational loan obligations over the next five years while they begin teaching full time in public schools.

Rather than soliciting lump-sum donations from members of the senior class, the gift committee is going to ask students to pledge donation amounts over the five-year period.

"They can decide how they want to give," Slibeck said. "We envision students pledging, say, $250 over five years, giving $25 the first two years, then when they're out in the working world making money and can afford more, they'll increase, say, to $50 the third year and $75 the fourth and fifth years," he noted.

By soliciting funds in this fashion, the gift committee is expecting to raise around $60,000 total, which is three times as high as the amount raised in previous years.

After the five-year period ends, the committee will review the teaching fund and its effectiveness. Committee members are hopeful that if the program is successful, MIT will take it under its wing.

"It's something we hope the Institute will take notice of

and perpetuate," said Dawn L. Mitzner '91, Class of 1991 president and member of the gift committee. "We're hoping the Institute will pick it up after five years."

So far, the reaction to the MIT Teaching Fund has been extremely positive. Professor of Physics and Dean for Undergraduate Education Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65 expressed her strong support for the class gift committee in a letter.

"I am simply delighted that the Class of '91 has decided to establish support for MIT graduates committed to K-12 service," MacVicar wrote.

"It is critical that MIT encourage and support its students, staff and faculty to undertake the critical challenge of K-12 education facing this nation. The action by the Class of '91 will be the first formal statement by the students of the Institute endorsing K-12 as a career focus," MacVicar said.

The decision to have the MIT Teaching Fund as the Class of '91 senior gift was made after a series of open meetings with seniors and survey responses from members of the class. "It was an open process," Slibeck said.

To raise money, the committee will hold a telethon from April 7-10, during which they will call all members of the senior class and ask for pledges.

The committee is hoping to gather interest in the teaching fund before that date. "We could use as many people as possible

to help us with the telethon," Slibeck said. The committee plans to offer dinner at the telethon to attract more students.

The committee is hopeful that the gift will achieve its goal. Mitzner said, "Because of the definite need for more qualified teachers, if it [the fund] can convince even one more MIT student to go into public school teaching, then it's a success."