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Remembering Elise O’Hara, Media Lab staff member

“We feel fortunate to have worked alongside Elise and to have witnessed the remarkable person she was.”
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Headshot of Elise O'Hara
Elise O'Hara

Elise O’Hara, a cherished member of the Media Lab community, died on Dec. 12, 2023, as a result of complications following the birth of a healthy child.

As an administrative assistant for multiple research groups and initiatives — most recently, the Space Exploration Initiative and Tangible Media Group — O’Hara managed a variety of complex, high-priority projects with skill, patience, and good humor.

In her time at the Media Lab, O’Hara was perhaps best known for her warmth and her kindness. Professor Hiroshi Ishii says of her, “Elise was not just a colleague to us but a dear friend whose presence brought light and warmth to the Tangible Media Group and MIT Media Lab. All my colleagues loved and respected Elise; her beautiful soul positively touched many lives. We feel fortunate to have worked alongside Elise and to have witnessed the remarkable person she was.”

Samantha Gutierrez-Arango, a research assistant in the Biomechatronics group, says, “Elise was an integral and treasured part of the Media Lab; throughout her time, she touched many lives and hearts and was instrumental in many processes during Covid-19, ensuring the students were happy and healthy when coming back. She covered various groups, so her skills in managing the Media Lab’s day-to-day business were greatly appreciated. Elise was very passionate about theater, acting, and teaching; she loved practicing her Spanish and had a great sense of humor. She always approached life with an optimistic and playful spirit despite obstacles, and was always innovating ways to help her children have a fun time.”

Outside of her work at the Lab, O’Hara was actively involved in local community theater, performing with companies including The Fringe Theater in Needham, Massachusetts, and the Milton Players in Canton. 

O’Hara earned her bachelor’s degree from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut and her master's in theater education from Emerson College.

She is survived by her husband, Sean O’Hara; her parents, Robert and Jean Valerio; her sister, Julie Cornell; and her three children.

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