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MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

Remembering Gisel by Chris Peterson SM '13

and honoring twenty years of service and friendship

I am heartbroken to tell you that this morning we learned Gisel, a beloved member of our team, died unexpectedly yesterday. 

a photo of gisel

If you’ve applied to MIT this millennium, you probably interacted with Gisel, who was stationed at the front desk in room 3-108 for the last 20 years. If you called the office, she probably picked up the phone and connected you to the admissions officer on duty. If you emailed, she likely responded.01 In fact, she sent almost 8,000 emails to students, teachers, guidance counselors, and others over the last year alone. More than 42,000 over the last five years. When I tried to go over that, our fancy email server analytics system crashed. If you were an elementary school teacher who wrote asking for a poster of MIT to hang in your classroom to inspire your students, Gisel is probably the person who put it in an envelope and dropped it in the mail. If you were an admissions officer who realized, on the plane to some far flung recruiting region, that you forgot to pack your fact sheets, she’s probably the one who shipped extras overnight so they’d be at your hotel in the morning.02 As you can probably imagine, she frequently won OVC Appreciation Awards that staff can give to each other as a thanks helping them out in a pinch.

Gisel’s kindness towards others was not limited to her professional responsibilities. If you were the partner of a new faculty or staff member from abroad, and if you were lucky, you might have been matched to Gisel through the language conversation exchange to help you learn English and acclimate to MIT. If you were someone who had worked in the office and were leaving to take another job, she might have knit you a small beaver to remember MIT by. Her latest, unfinished, knitting project was a tiny Baby Yoda.03 I'm not actually sure if Gisel had ever seen anything from the Star Wars universe; she just thought it was cute (and she was right).  

a knitted beaver atop some books

a knit beaver gisel made for jessica ch’ng when she left the office (pc jessica)

Gisel was an integral member of our team and our mission; our work over the last two decades would not have been possible without her. She was what every institution needs: a maintainer, one of the people who quietly, consistently, reliably04 </span>She was usually the first one in the office and the last one out. Earlier in my career, I remember once asking a senior colleague what Gisel's job was, and them telling me, simply, “well, she's always there.” And so she was; and now she's not. kept the office — and the Institute — going. 

And so I wanted to write this, on behalf of all of us here at MITAdmissions, to publicly thank and remember Gisel, and to honor her kindness, her conscientiousness, and her years of selfless service and warm friendship to her colleagues, to the MIT community, and to our applicants. 

I also wanted to explain to our applicants why, if you call or email us in the near term, you may not get quite as quick of a response as you typically would, both because Gisel herself is not around to help as she so tirelessly did, and also because the rest of her team is grieving her loss. To be honest, we’re all in a bit of shock, and it’s going to take a little bit of time for us to get back up to full operational and emotional capacity. We appreciate your patience while we do so. 

If you have a fond memory of Gisel that you’d like to share, please feel free to do so respectfully in the comments below. I will update this post as we have more public information to share on how we might collectively honor her. 

Miss you always, Gisel. 

  1. In fact, she sent almost 8,000 emails to students, teachers, guidance counselors, and others over the last year alone. More than 42,000 over the last five years. When I tried to go over that, our fancy email server analytics system crashed. back to text
  2. As you can probably imagine, she frequently won OVC Appreciation Awards that staff can give to each other as a thanks helping them out in a pinch. back to text
  3. I'm not actually sure if Gisel had ever seen anything from the Star Wars universe; she just thought it was cute (and she was right). back to text
  4. She was usually the first one in the office and the last one out. Earlier in my career, I remember once asking a senior colleague what Gisel's job was, and them telling me, simply, “well, she's always there.” And so she was; and now she's not. back to text