MIT 50th Reunion Story

By George Heller, 4/16/09

On my 85th birthday this spring (2009), I climbed the 20 foot Rock Climbing wall at the YMCA in Palo Alto, CA, where I have been climbing weekly for ten years. On top of the wall a banner declares: “It’s Possible!" I made that banner.

A survivor of the Holocaust, I came to the US after World War II. Slave labor and concentration camps in Europe had reduced me to 80 pounds. I was 21 years old, and somehow I survived. I arrived in New York in the spring of 1946 with my shirt on my back, two dollars in my pocket, and the determination to move forward.

It took me ten years to reach MIT, and by then I had a degree in Management. MIT added the tremendous opportunity to learn about computers. Three years and two MIT degrees later I went to work for IBM. Today I am still part of IBM. I did not become rich, but the fun and opportunities I had over the past 50 years still boggle my mind.

In 1960 I started a large volunteer project in the Washington DC area, teaching high school students about computers as featured in the cover story of the Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), February 1961. I became chairman of the ACM Education Committee to develop Computer Science curricula, and in 1962 the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on my project: “Breakthrough in High School Computer Education.”

My preschool projects were featured on the cover of Computers and Automation, October 1965. In 1968 I was an ACM National Lecturer, and my teaching computer graphics was the cover story of the AEDS (Association for Educational Data Systems) Monitor, October 1969. Many academics and professionals joined together to create Curriculum ‘68, the first Computer Science curriculum.

In 1971 I was elected an Active Member of the New York Academy of Sciences. In 1983 I received the George B. Morgan Award for my work on the MIT Educational Council where I'm still active. Now retired, both my wife and I teach computer subjects here in California.

This year we celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary. My wife Iby has been with me through our MIT experience. She was very active in the MIT Dames (the organization of MIT student wives) where she served as president and accepted MIT’s Carl Taylor Compton Award.

We have four married children, and nine wonderful grandchildren. Of the nine academic degrees in our family, six were awarded by MIT. We have been very active in our community for many years.

My MIT experience completely changed my life. My education at MIT opened up a whole new world. Many of my dreams have come true. My life’s Mantra has become: “Anything is Possible.”

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