Few of the thousands of students who knew James E. Roberts Sr. over his 20-year career as the night watchman at Senior House and East Campus ever forgot him.
Now, the residents of East Campus and Senior House have established a scholarship, sustained with more than $50,000, to ensure that the memory of "Big Jimmy," who died in January 2005, remains strong.
"I think a lot of people who would never have considered donating to MIT otherwise put in for Jimmy's memory because he'd been such a kind friend to them while they were here," said Senior House graduate resident tutor Andrew "Zoz" Brooks, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science. "I'm especially glad that we've been able to set something up that will keep that memory alive in perpetuity."
Roberts was beloved among his many charges, both as a friend and as a surrogate father. Known for his ever-present smile and generous nature, he provided pizza, ice cream, Italian ices, burritos and potpies for late-night studiers. The food consumed during those sessions came to be affectionately known as "Jimmy food."
"He knew it was important to be visible around the dorm and get to know all the students. A feeling for what is going on around the place doesn't come to you, you have to go seek it out," said Brooks in January 2005.
Brooks and many others worked hard to meet the scholarship goal they set last year. Residents sold food and created calendars all in the name of the James ("Big Jimmy") E. Roberts Sr. Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The annual Senior House steer roast, one of Roberts' favorite events, was also part of the drive. All the proceeds from the 2006 roast went to the fund.
"We hit the scholarship target before I could even get the bronze memorial plaque finished that I'm making," Brooks said. "I think it's a testament to the impact Jimmy had on this side of campus and the love that everyone had for him."
In May, East Campus commissioned a mural of Roberts painted by graffiti artists TATS CRU.
Further donations to the fund are welcome, Brooks said. Financially eligible students from Senior House and East Campus will have priority for the scholarship. Please make donations to the MIT Scholarship Fund, Room E19-411, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139.