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Theresa A. Tobin

Published onApr 19, 2019
Theresa A. Tobin

Dear Noam,

I doubt very much that you remember our first meeting, it was in December 1970, six months after earning my BA degree. I had just had an offer for employment from the MIT Libraries, and I was conflicted about whether to accept the offer and work for an institution that supported weapons research. I had come to Boston because it was one of the few places where the antiwar movement was still strong and volunteered at the New England Free Press. I remembered from some research I had done in my sophomore year, that you worked at MIT and wondered if you might have advice for a library assistant-to-be. I found your office and your secretary said you were in; I could just go into your office and talk to you! After laying out my problem, you told me that if I accepted the position, I would also have to accept the responsibility to resist the dominant forces at MIT and work with others to commit to changing it. Obviously, I took the job but also took my responsibility seriously.

Throughout my career at MIT, I joined many groups to pressure MIT to change its emphasis and although we had limited success, I also had the privilege of working with Linguists for Nicaragua to work in Nicaragua in the CIDCA library. I also used my position as the Head Librarian of the Humanities Library to contribute to further these aims and make MIT more just for the workers. In 1980, I became the Linguistics bibliographer, and therefore, your librarian. Over the years as I got to know you better and continued to learn from you, I came to deeply appreciate your advice. My final position at MIT, as the Curator of your papers, gave me a further appreciation of your work; reading so many of your letters, speeches, and books has transformed my life.

Thank you so much for inspiring me both in my antiwar work early on and in my participation at MIT. I hope you enjoyed a happy 90th birthday and continue to be strong in your 90s.


Monder Pierre:

Thank you Theresa for sharing such an inspiring story! Your letter to Noam Chomsky beautifully highlights the power of mentorship and staying true to one's values. Pierre from Italy. So touching!