15th Annual MLK Celebration Leadership Award Recipient: Yvonne Gittens
Associate Director, MIT Student Financial Aid Office
Financial Aid Advisor and Consultant, Project REACH, Freedom House
15th Annual MLK Leadership Award
Yvonne Gittens [née Harris] spent her entire career at MIT, beginning in 1965. "All of my grandmother’s children were born in Cambridge, literally within walking distance to MIT," she says in Technology and the Dream by Clarence G. Williams (MIT Press, 2001). "My mother always worked in factories until she came to work at MIT;" her mother Louise V. Harris (Layne) worked as a payroll accountant at the Institute for many years until retirement.
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. In addition to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award, she would receive many honors during her time at MIT, including the President’s Award for Community Service in 1994, and serve as president of the Quarter Century Club.
Gittens continues to give back to Cambridge. She is on the Community Steering Committee of Community Conversations: Sister to Sister. She serves as Group Leader and Cooking Teacher at the Cambridge Community Center, where she attended as a child and is known as "Ms. G."
Yvonne Gittens at MIT
Staff members Yvonne Harris (left) and Sherry Glanville, ca. 1965. Courtesy MIT Museum
Cambridge Community Center
Yvonne Gittens shares a story about the cooking classes she teaches at Cambridge Community Center in Cambridge, MA.
Yvonne Gittens from Jukebox on Vimeo.