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Alumnus returns to MIT with a perfect reunion record

At Tech Reunions June 2-5, Robert Smith '41, will celebrate 75 years since his graduation — as well as his perfect reunion attendance.
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Robert Smith ’41, in his signature MIT red jacket, celebrates his 90th birthday.
Robert Smith ’41, in his signature MIT red jacket, celebrates his 90th birthday.

When Robert E. Smith ’41 joins more than 3,800 alumni and guests on campus during MIT’s annual Tech Reunions weekend, June 2-5, he will participate in his 75th-anniversary reunion — and keep his perfect attendance record. “I’ve never missed a reunion,” he says. “And I am enthusiastic that I can attend this one.”

Smith, who studied civil engineering and participated in advanced ROTC, was ordered into active duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps immediately after graduation in 1941; he served until February 1946. In the first year in the military, he taught math to navigators and bombardier cadets and later assumed administrative duties at Ellington Air Field in Houston, Texas.

After WWII, he had the opportunity to take a few graduate courses at MIT under the GI Bill, so he was already in town for his five-year reunion. “It was small. We just had dinner in a restaurant, but I brought the girl I was dating.” That young lady, Eleanor Smith, who had studied voice at the New England Conservatory, would later become his wife. “We had a great time and went back for the 10th reunion in 1956,” he says.

Over the past three quarters of a century, Smith has faithfully returned to Cambridge every five years for each of his class reunions. “It has always been a great opportunity to renew relationships with my fraternity brothers in Phi Delta Theta, my classmates in Course I, and even make new contacts with classmates I did not know when I was a student.”

One of the biggest draws to Tech Reunions has always been the music. This year he especially looks forward to attending Tech Night at Pops, the Symphony Hall concert exclusively for MIT alumni and their guests. In its 119th year, Tech Night at Pops will feature Julia Cha ’18, who will perform the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto. “I have never missed a reunion or a Pops Concert,” Smith says. And he plans to keep it that way.

Tech Reunions’ general events — from Technology Day lectures to Tech Challenge Games — are open to all alumni. Undergraduate alumni who graduated in years ending in 1 or 6 have class gatherings as well. Inerested individuals can find scheduling and registration information on the event website.

A version of this story originally appeared on Slice of MIT.

Press Mentions

MIT alumnus Robert Smith speaks with reporter Meagan McGinnes about his perfect attendance record for his class reunions. Smith, who graduated from MIT in 1941, says that the reunions provide the opportunity to “get reacquainted with my classmates, and make new acquaintances that maybe I didn’t know from my class of about 400.” 

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