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Alison Alden, MIT’s vice president for human resources, to retire in 2014

Early-spring departure to conclude ‘seven years of exceptional service’ to the Institute.
Alison Alden
Alison Alden
Photo: Mark Morelli

Vice President for Human Resources Alison Alden announced today that she plans to retire early next spring. In an email sharing the news with the MIT community, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz thanked Alden for her “seven years of exceptional service to the Institute.”

Alden joined MIT in 2007, following a 25-year career in human resources and organizational development in the insurance, utility, banking and retail sectors. Prior to joining MIT, she had served as senior vice president for human resources at John Hancock.

“Alison has made significant contributions to the HR organization and to transforming HR practices more broadly across campus,” Ruiz wrote. “With a deep commitment to diversity and to promoting an open and inclusive environment for all, she has helped MIT extend its reputation for being an exceptional place to work and to live. The culture of caring that she has helped to advance reflects her deep appreciation for MIT culture and values.”

During Alden’s tenure, MIT expanded its Excellence Awards, creating an annual forum to celebrate exceptional work by employees in support of the Institute’s mission. She also strengthened the network of HR professionals across campus and championed expanded learning opportunities for staff. Recognizing the importance of leadership at every level, she was instrumental in extending elements of the Leader-to-Leader program to those in supervisory and managerial roles.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to work at MIT, and to engage with this rich, wonderful community,” Alden said. “Looking in from the outside, I never expected MIT to be the way it is. It’s a place full of smart people who are generous with their input and who want to help find the best solutions to HR and benefits implementations.”

“We were fortunate to have the benefit of Alison’s leadership during the financial crisis of 2009,” President L. Rafael Reif said. “With HR’s assistance — and in particular, with Alison’s guidance — we worked closely with those who were displaced to find the best possible outcomes at a very difficult time.”

Under Alden, HR launched the PensionConnect web site — which helps employees estimate monthly payments from their MIT pensions whenever they retire — and personalized, annual Total Compensation Statements, which explain the value of the health and dental coverage, insurance and retirement benefits that MIT provides for employees and their families. As chair of the Employee Benefits Oversight Committee, Alden played a key role in phasing in changes to MIT’s pension plan to respond to financial realities while safeguarding the plan elements that are most important to MIT employees.

Many MIT HR systems and processes were modernized under Alden, including the development of the MIT Learning Center electronic-training catalog and registration system; an applicant-tracking system for recruiting; and a new streamlined hiring system.

Alden earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College in 1970 and holds an M.Ed. from American University and an Ed.D. in organizational development from Harvard University. She also studied business at the University of Michigan.

Alden began her career as a consultant in organizational development and held executive positions at Filene’s and the Bank of New England. She then spent a decade at NStar and its predecessor, Boston Edison, where she served as vice president for marketing, sales and customer service, and later as senior vice president of human resources — the first woman in the company’s history to serve as an officer.

Alden joined life insurance company Manulife Financial in 2001, and went to work at John Hancock following its acquisition by Manulife in 2004.

In his email, Ruiz encouraged members of the MIT community to send him suggestions regarding the right individual to fill the important role of leading HR: Correspondence can be emailed to or sent by regular or interoffice mail to Room 4-204. All correspondence received will be treated as confidential.

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