How A Work-Study Job in Admissions Led to a Career in Minority Recruiting

by Jill Hecht Maxwell on May 22, 2017 · 1 comment

in Alumni Life

Eddie Grado ’83

Both in his former job as MIT associate director of admissions and in his current role as a corporate recruiter, Eddie Grado ’83 has had a passion for helping Mexican-Americans and other minorities succeed. He was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Avanza Network, a national leadership and professional group founded by MIT alumni for the advancement of Mexican-­American and underserved communities.

When Grado arrived on campus as a first-year student from El Paso, Texas, there were only a few Mexican-­American undergrads, and he knew of none among faculty or staff. “That to me was a very, very different world,” he says. He and his friends cooked with tortillas mailed from home when they could not find fresh ones in Cambridge. They started MIT’s Mexican-­American student association, La Union Chicana por Aztlan (LUChA), and gathered each Thanksgiving since they could not afford to fly home.

A work-study gig in the admissions office was the springboard to his life’s work. Through Interphase, a community-building program run by the MIT Office of Minority Education, he met Julia McLellan, then the associate director of admissions. She offered him a job and more—she supported LUChA in its infancy. “She gave us the bulletin board across from Admissions in the Infinite Corridor,” Grado says. “She empowered us. She helped us with our movement.”

Over spring break, Grado and friends fanned out to their hometowns and encouraged more minorities to apply to MIT. “I knew many of the students I recruited,” Grado says. “Their mothers and fathers knew me; they knew there was someone they could call.” He stayed on after graduation—and, he says, Texas was the number three or four feeder state for MIT by 1990. He was honored with MIT’s Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award for distinguished service to the MIT community.

After seven years, Grado moved to Caltech, where he built diversity programs for three years. Now back in Texas, he is a partner at Joseph Michaels International, a North Dallas head-hunting firm. As a volunteer, he is the vice president of recruiting for the Avanza Network. In 2015, Grado and two dozen other members spoke with 1,400 students at 14 Las Vegas high schools in two days.

Grado is an officer of the MIT Club of Dallas and Fort Worth. He keeps in touch with his own mentor, McLellan, who retired in 1985 after almost 40 years in the admissions office. “I just talked to her this week,” he says. “She’s 94 years old. That’s what I like about MIT. The people aren’t just smart. They’re leaders. And they’re caring people.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fred Quintana May 31, 2017 at 2:46 am

Eddie Grado was an inspiration to me as I was a young kid in a small town in New Mexico hoping to make it to MIT. Eddie Grado attended an MIT meetup at the Armand Hammer school in Las Vegas, NM and my parents took me there just because an MIT administrator was going to be there. That meeting inspired me to continue to pursue my dream going to MIT. Later on we continued to talk to Eddie, giving him updates on my LSATs and continuing to get encouragement to pursue my dream. My father and mother, a farmer and, and my mother, an admins to the school district vice-superintendent, who was a valedictorian herself before she became a homemaker and my mother.

I didn’t feel I had much chance being I was in such as small town but our phone calls with Eddie continued to relate to my experience and inspire me and I kept it up and eventually entered the class of ’93.

I am so grateful for Eddie Grado’s support and motivation for me to continue to pursue my dream. I ended up graduating in ’93 with the AT&T scholars program, working at AT&T for 5 years until they sent me to a masters program at Stanford.
At Stanford I ran into a brilliant MIT classmate (Ken Duda) and joined his startup for 5 years until I joined Google as a software engineer for the last 13 years.

My dream as an 8th grader, as a Latino on a farm in New Mexico, was kept alive with Eddie and allowed me to achieve my dreams. I now have a beautiful wife and daughter and hope to support my daughter in the same way others have supported me. I am happy for my life and the role Eddie played in it.

One story I never will forget; our shared experience with Driver’s Ed. Thank you Eddie Grado!
-Fred Quintana

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