As a staff member in the ISO, Chamberlain acted as a friend and mentor to many students from abroad, working tirelessly to help them fully integrate into the MIT community.
“He was enormously kind, enormously helpful — quite a remarkable man,” says Robert Randolph, Chaplain to the Institute and a former colleague of Chamberlain’s. “He was really the voice for international students at MIT. He demanded that they be given the support they needed to be successful, and laid the foundation for the contemporary approach to how we deal with students from other countries.”
Born in Chicago, Chamberlain spent parts of his childhood in London and in his father’s hometown of Prescott, Ontario, Canada. On the advice of his father, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in July 1940, seeing action in Morocco and at the Pacific islands of Truk, Saipan, Palau and Yap and rising to the rank of ensign. He met his wife, Helen, in Hingham while he was on leave visiting family. They married in 1945.
Following the war, Gene attended Denison University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and was voted friendliest man on campus. He returned to the Boston area and worked a brief stint in business before arriving at MIT, where he worked in the International Students Office, rising to a director’s position in 1976.
There, he helped fulfill the mission of the ISO by ensuring all international students’ needs — academic, legal and social — were met. Part of his role was acting as an associate director of admissions, evaluating applications from international students; another part was helping build community for the thousands of international students already on campus as associate dean for student affairs.
“At the time when Gene retired from MIT, former students literally came from around the world to express their appreciation for how much he helped them feel at home here,” says Bonny Kellermann, a colleague of Chamberlain’s and the director of special constituencies in the Office of Leadership Giving.
Chamberlain’s exceptional service to the community was officially recognized on two occasions. In June 2005, he was made an honorary member of the MIT Alumni Association, an honor bestowed on very select individuals for “outstanding service to the Association or the Institute.” He also received a Billard Award for Special Service in 1985, in recognition of “special service of outstanding merit” for the Institute.
Following his retirement in 1986, Chamberlain devoted himself to the community of Hingham, serving as president of the town’s historical society and earning the distinction of Citizen of the Year from the local newspaper.
His wife, Helen, predeceased him in 2004. He is survived by two daughters, Betsy C. Habich of North Reading, Mass., and Anne H. Tuite of Shrub Oak, N.Y.; a son, Richard R. Chamberlain of Hingham, Mass.; and three grandchildren, Christopher “Topher” Howard Chamberlain, Matthew Howard Tuite and John “Jack” Ryan Tuite.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Second Parish Church, 685 Main St. (Rte. 228), Hingham, Mass. Donations may be made in Chamberlain’s memory to the Hingham Historical Society, P.O. Box 434, Hingham, MA 02043 or the Hingham Public Library, 66 Leavitt St., Hingham, MA 02043.