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An early bird takes flight

Longtime MIT Medical staff member Maria Bachini reflects on more than half a century of service at the Institute.
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Photo of Maria Bachini, seated with a plate of food on her lap.
Over more than half a century at MIT, Maria Bachini had a front seat to a juggernaut of technical innovation as we moved from electrified typewriters and room-sized computers to laptops, smartphones, and Zoom.
Photo courtesy of MIT Medical.

“I’m in denial, you know?”

Bob Bright, MIT Medical’s director of facilities, usually loves spring on campus, but this year, the bright yellows and greens of the daffodils and budding trees are muted; Maria Bachini, facilities coordinator at MIT Medical and Bright's colleague of 20 years, is retiring on April 29.

Although Bachini has worked with Bright for a long while, it only represents a fraction of her overall time at the Institute — which has spanned just shy of 57 years.

In these days of freelance work and the gig economy, spending even a few years in the same place might be hard to picture. Now imagine having a single job interview that unlocks a lifelong career.

When Bachini joined the Institute in May 1965, MIT was a very different place. “When I interviewed — which was basically my first job interview, by the way, I was given a typing test, and the hiring manager asked which kind of typewriter I wanted to use — a manual or an IBM Selectric,” Bachini recalls, “I requested the Selectric, of course … it was the latest thing.” 

That first interview and typing test led to a career marked by adaptation and reinvention. She spent 16 years in the Department of Physics before moving to MIT Medical. Across the years, Bachini had a front seat to a juggernaut of technical innovation as we moved from electrified typewriters and room-sized computers to laptops, smartphones, and Zoom. How did she do it? Being the consummate go-getter certainly helped.

“Maria had this great quote from her father: ‘If you’re 15 minutes early, you’re late,’” recalls William Kettyle, MIT Medical’s former medical director. “Maria was my assistant for 20 years, and in all that time, I beat her to the office just once — because I had done the overnight shift at the clinic.”

Cheryl Baranauskas, who worked with her on MIT Medical’s administrative support team, fondly remembers those early mornings with Bachini. “My best days at MIT Medical were working with Maria, sharing a morning coffee and conversation,” she remembers. “Maria’s work ethic is like no other, but she’s also a great mentor and a great listener. … Maria just makes everyone better.”

When Kettyle retired in 2014, Bachini took on a new challenge, working alongside Bright as MIT Medical’s facilities coordinator. Though the work has been different — ranging from construction projects to elevator maintenance — Bachini has thrived. As Bright put it, “Maria can do anything and work with anyone — I always get a kick out of how people from across campus react to Maria — her positive energy and sense of humor always puts everyone in a good mood.”

Even the pandemic did little to slow Bachini down. When she was unable to come to campus, she was on the front lines remotely, working with MIT Medical’s housekeeping and facilities teams to ensure that the facility was safe for patients. That’s not to say it wasn’t a challenge. As Bright explains, “Maria is a doer, and she likes to be where the action is. … Her commitment to MIT is phenomenal, and it was hard for her to be away from campus.”

Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis puts it this way: “In many ways, Maria Bachini is MIT Medical — her dedication, positivity, and can-do attitude are an inspiration to all of us. We are going to miss her, but we’re also so fortunate to have learned from her.”

Over the years, a lot has changed at MIT, but according to Bachini, some things have remained constant: “It’s a welcoming community and a phenomenal institution. I just can’t imagine working anywhere else. If I had it to do over again, I would do the same thing.”

Soon she’ll be away from campus, and as the weather warms, Bachini is excited to use her newfound leisure time to take beach walks with her sister. As for what she’s looking forward to most on that first day of retired life? “Not waking up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready for work,” she laughs.

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