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Vice President Willmore to retire

Kathryn A. Willmore
Kathryn A. Willmore
Photo / Edward McCluney

MIT President Susan Hockfield has announced that Kathryn A. Willmore, vice president and secretary of the MIT Corporation since 1998, will retire at the end of the academic year, after over 40 years at MIT. One of the Institute's four corporate officers, Willmore has been responsible for MIT's external and internal communications and for trustee relations.

In making the announcement at the quarterly meeting of the MIT Corporation on Friday, Dec. 2, Hockfield noted that, "With quiet professionalism Kathryn has managed a demanding portfolio of responsibilities, including the administration of our governing board and the coordination of public relations services. Just as important, she has served as a trusted advisor and sounding board to successive presidents and chairmen of the MIT Corporation, to the members of the Academic Council and to colleagues across the Institute."

Hockfield continued, "She exemplifies many of the qualities MIT most prizes -- integrity, a commitment to excellence and a capacity for hard work. She understands the Institute's history, culture and values deeply, and in analyzing policy alternatives she always seeks the good of the entire MIT community. Kathryn has been an invaluable resource and support to me over the last year, and I am grateful to have had the chance to learn from and work with her."

Willmore was elevated to her current position by then-President Charles M. Vest, who said, "Kathryn Willmore has served MIT, its broader community, senior officers and Corporation with an unparalleled grace and effectiveness. Behind her calm demeanor is an unrelenting devotion to her work, to institutional strategy and to detail. But above all, she brought to every task a deep understanding of MIT people -- their concerns, and aspirations. In many ways she has been the glue that held our community together in times of stress. She also led us through times of celebration, because she reveled in recognizing the joys and accomplishments of colleagues."

Willmore joined the Institute shortly after her graduation from college in 1965. She joined the Analytical Studies and Planning Group in the Office of the President in 1971, and three years later also became manager of campus information services. She assumed additional responsibilities as executive assistant to then-President Paul E. Gray in 1981 and was promoted to director of public relations services in 1986.

Gray said, "Kathryn Willmore's long career at MIT, which spans six presidents, is a sterling model of continuing growth of capability and responsibility. She cut her professional teeth here under the tutelage of Constantine Simonides, who is much remembered for his patient development of the careers of smart young women. She became my executive assistant in 1981, where her judgment, skills as a writer and her boundless energy made a demanding job less difficult and more fun."

As director of public relations services, Willmore has management responsibility for the Conference Services Office, Events and Information Center, News Office, Publishing Services Bureau and Reference Publications Office. She spearheaded the 1997 opening of the Publishing Services Bureau, which advises Institute offices and programs on their publications and communications initiatives.

Willmore was elected secretary of the MIT Corporation in 1994. In this role, she has administered the operations of MIT's board of trustees, including membership, quarterly meetings, standing committees and the activities of 30 visiting committees. She also serves as secretary of the Corporation's Executive Committee, and in that role manages the flow of issues and decisions between the administration and MIT's trustees.

Vest named Willmore vice president and secretary of the Corporation in 1998. "Kathryn was my wise and trusted counselor and closest confidante," Vest said. "We worked together constantly -- in person, in meetings, and electronically at all hours of the day and night. She is my friend, and she is the friend of everyone at MIT. We have been blessed by her service during the last 40 years. MIT is the better for it."

Willmore was elected an honorary member of the MIT Alumni Association in 1997 in recognition of her service to the Institute. She serves on the board of the Cambridge Trust Co. and has long been active in women's culture and music.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 7, 2005 (download PDF).

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