Pat Callahan was raised in Boston’s inner city, where she lived with her parents and sister in a four-room apartment, happiest zooming though books.
As a student at Our Lady of Assumption grammar school, Pat once read about a dazzling place called MIT and it was then that she began fantasizing that one day she would study there. In high school, she got the lucky chance to attend an MIT summer program, and it inspired her so much, it would shape her life.
Pat earned an MIT degree in mechanical engineering in 1975 and a master’s in management in 1977. After graduation she headed for California, where she worked in banking in various management positions. For 26 years, she has worked at the Wells Fargo & Company, a national financial services firm headquartered in San Francisco, where she is now executive vice president and director of the human resources department, which serves 140,000 people. “MIT made all the difference for me,” she says. “I feel I want to give something back.”
Recently Callahan gave the Institute $50,000 to establish an endowment for the Saturday Engineering Enrichment and Discovery (SEED) Academy, a program that offers promising, inner-city high school students the chance to study at MIT and motivates them to pursue technical careers.
“I wanted to give these bright, ambitious, diverse students an opportunity but also some inspiration. Diversity is important to the country. We can’t have a society where a huge part of the population doesn’t have access. We need to get all this talent corralled if we’re going to solve our collective societal problems. And it all starts with education.
“At MIT, I learned to learn. That kind of education makes you understand that with enough time and energy, you can push yourself past any barrier. To offer even one person the opportunity to be inspired is just worth everything.”