Patricia Gercik
MIT-Japan Program, Managing Director
MISTI Associate Director

As Managing Director for the MISTI MIT-Japan Program for nearly 30 years, Patricia Gercik helped introduce hundreds of MIT students to Japanese culture, history, and unique in-country internship experiences. In her tireless efforts to facilitate international exchange and collaboration, Pat truly epitomized the MIT spirit.

Pat’s early and sustained enthusiastic leadership of the MIT-Japan Program clearly demonstrated this commitment. Pat’s knowledge of all things Japanese was vast and her passion for the country was infectious. She thoughtfully matched students studying a wide range of disciplines with challenging internships that would encourage them to grow in unexpected ways. She had an uncanny knack for clearly conveying the nuance and subtlety of Japanese communication to those who weren’t familiar with Japan. And for many of us, she instilled a life-long love of and connection to a country that, without her guidance, could have seemed mysterious and unknowable.
 
Sadly, Pat lost her battle with a long illness on September 17, 2019. We can think of no better tribute to Pat’s life and contributions to MIT than to establish a memorial fund in her honor. The fund will provide supplemental stipends for MIT-Japan interns who best exemplify Pat's energy, love of Japanese culture and history, and contributions to MIT student life.

We have already raised the initial seed funding required to establish and name the fund in Pat’s honor and we would like for you to join this effort and help realize our dream to raise $100,000 to endow the fund in perpetuity. We recognize that the creation of this fund comes at a challenging time, as we continue to grapple with the uncertainty of COVID-19.  If you are able, please make a gift online to the Patricia Gercik Memorial Fund. Your contribution to this fund is a tax-deductible gift to MIT and will count towards your MIT giving total and reunion contribution.

While future MIT-Japan Program students will not have the joy of experiencing Pat’s wisdom, guidance, and laughter first-hand, the impact of her legacy will benefit them as they experience Japanese culture and grow into global leaders. We hope you will join us and make a contribution to honor Pat’s memory at MIT.

Memories and Thoughts about Pat from Her Students

I am very sad to hear this.

Pat touched and positively impacted so many people. While MIT has the world’s best technologists, sometimes we are geeks and having a second mom like Pat around helped put the world in proper perspective.

I was definitely one of those impacted.

I think you know that I was not originally an active participant in the MIT-Japan program until Pat reached out to me about the Shimizu internship. That experience guided my career direction as it reinforced my desire to work/live in Japan and led to my introduction to Teradyne, a company completely unrelated to my OE background.

Please pass on my condolences to her family.

I will truly miss her.

Mike Mitsumata
MIT Japan Program 1986


This is a rather humble story, but I think it illustrates Pat’s personality somewhat.

In my last year before going to Japan, Pat held a party at her house for affiliates of the MIT-Japan program.  Late in the afternoon, I found her washing dishes in the kitchenette next to the main party room.  I asked her if I could wash the dishes, so that she could do something else.  She said “yes, of course!,” handed me the dish cloth, and walked away.  I turned to the sink, and discovered that she had already finished all but two or three of the plates.  There was enough work that I was able to feel useful, but not enough work to actually cause me any inconvenience at all --- she had already done all of the rest of the work.

Mark Hasegawa-Johnson
MIT Japan Program 1989


 Sorry to hear Pat has passed away, but I feel so lucky to have known her!!  Absolutely wonderful, kind person.

 I have many fond memories of Pat, but here is a story:

I had been working with Pat for over 2 years including Japanese classes at MIT, Japanese tea ceremony classes with visiting scientist and the “Japanese wife’s club I think Pat started,...
I was getting nervous because my visa had not arrived and I was heading to Tokyo in 1 week to start my internship at KDD research labs with a stop in (the San Francisco) Bay Area to visit my parents.
It wasn’t the first time I had come by to see Pat asking why my visa had not arrived, but this time instead of the “Be patient, I’m sure it is being processed” I got a different response, “It is getting kind of late even for the Japanese ‘Just in time’, let me see who I can call.”
She went to her Rolodex, yes in 1989 she still had a Rolodex, and found a number for the Japanese ambassador to US in Washington DC.   Pat asked me to come back the next day and said not to worry. I came back the next day and she said she had spoken to the Ambassador and that he would confirm my (visa application) passport was processed.  I left two days later for San Francisco without my passport, but with another assurance from Pat not to worry.
The day before I was to leave for Tokyo I got a call from Pat saying my visa was ready and that my passport would be delivered to my house in Livermore about 40 miles from SFO by 10:30AM.  My flight was 1PM so my mother drove me to the airport early in morning and I checked in my bags while my dad waited for my passport.   A courier from Japanese consulate in San Francisco dropped my passport with my father at around 10AM, my father met me around 11:30 at the airport and off I went to Japan!
Pat knew so many people and had such a wonderful rapport with everyone she met that nothing was impossible when she took out her rolodex.

Sincerely,
Paul Martin
MIT Japan Program 1989


I graduated MIT in the summer of 1988 and went to Japan for the next year on the recently established MIT-Japan program.  When I met Pat as an undergraduate I had taken about 3 months of Japanese language courses.   She informally ’tested’ my all-but-nonexistant understanding of the Japanese language and immediately assured me that ‘everything would be fine and I’d have no problems’ on the upcoming year-long trip to Japan where I would be living as the sole foreigner in a Japanese employee dormitory.  I continued to study Japanese for several years even after returning from Japan and to this day the experience of living in Japan, seeing the world as a foreigner and being the receipting of the innumerable gracious acts by my Japanese hosts has shaped the course of my adult life.   Pat and everybody at the MIT-Japan program gave me and so many people a tremendous gift.  I’ll always remember Pat and that she took a bet on sending a woefully underprepared but eternally grateful student to represent her program and be a part of the MIT-Japan Program.

Ethan Foxman,
88’ BS Physics, 93’ PhD Physics
MIT Japan Program 1989


Pat was wonderful, a real driving force behind the program. She set up my two MIT-Japan Program internships at TDK and Nippon Steel. I'll never forget her talk at the first info session I attended as a newly arrived freshman in September 1988, where she described the walkabout traditions of many cultures around the world, a lone journey without the familiar creature comforts of home, which would shape a young person's journey into adulthood. She repeated the phrase "no sex, no salt" several times to describe the absence of creature comforts, and after about the fourth or fifth time, Richard Samuels cut in with "Just to be clear, those are not requirements of this program." Indeed, we all love and will miss Pat.

Best regards,
Adam C Powell, IV
SB ’92 (Materials Science, Economics), PhD ’97 (Materials Science)
MIT Japan Program Summer 1990, 1991


That is sad news.  Pat was instrumental in getting me into the University of Tokyo where not only did I have an enriching Japanese experience but earned a PhD as well.
I have not been able to return to Japan but have very fond memories; it was the adventure of a lifetime.
Thank you for the communication, I will be watching out for further information.

With kind regards,
Jonathan Lavery
MIT Japan Program 1991


I am deeply saddened to learn that Pat has left us. From the first day I joined MIT-Japan Program, Pat has helped me in many different ways, and has shown her caring all the way along. As one of my fellow interns said, Pat is the grandmother of everyone. I remembered when I tried to fulfill the Japanese history course requirement by the program and found I wasn't very interested, Pat arranged to let me take an alternative course on traditional Japanese garden that is closely related to my architecture major. I remembered on a cold Thanksgiving day, Pat opened up her home and invited everyone in the program to dinner. Being a foreign student first time away from home, it was such a warm and unforgettable moment. I remembered when I came back from Japan and tried to land a job, Pat offered to help practice my job interview, and provided many candid advice. Pat's kindness and genuine caring for others has profoundly influenced me. She will be forever remembered.

With sincerest regards,
Tong Chen
SM ’95 (Architecture)
MIT Japan Program Summer 1992


Sorry to hear about Pat' s news. I really appreciate her contributions in MIT Japan program. I was one of the interns in 1993 and 1994 to work in Tokyo. She helped me a lot. For my second year internship, there was the sarin gas attack in the subway stations of Tokyo and I had to cancel my internship in 1994. Pat helped me throughout the whole process. I am glad that I went to Japan in 1993 summer and worked for SECOM intelligent lab.  All thanks to Pat.

Leo Lap Ming Chun
MIT Japan Program 1993


These are sad news. My deepest condolences go out to Pat’s Family / Friends and Colleagues. She will be missed.

Leandro Burnes
SB ’98, MBA ‘02
MIT Japan Program Summer 1995


I went to Japan in the MIT Japan program in 1995.  Pat's book "On track with the Japanese" gave me all the shortcuts to understand what I would witness first-hand.  What today I consider obvious in regards to intercultural exchange and learning I must admit I first learned in her book.

She was an important ambassador - I am sorry to hear of her passing.

Camilo Cepeda '97
MIT Japan Program 1995


I am so sorry to hear that Pat has passed away. I remember her fondly as a supportive and knowledgeable guide who put together an impressive array of resources for us interns. She was at the Japanese lunches and tea ceremony classes, and always so full of advice on how to make everyone learn more about Japanese culture. As an intern in Japan for my sophomore summer, I was so relieved she could answer most of our questions before I left for my internship. She organized our intern conference in Yokohama in 1995, and I am so grateful for that event. It was so nice to see other MIT students after a whole summer isolated in a foreign country without much contact from my MIT peers. She was always and welcoming and familiar face and helped us interns face the unknown of an internship abroad with her advice and caring. She brought us all together, all the MIT interns, and made us feel secure and prepared for our journeys. She achieved so much, and enabled us to have a lifetime of rich, cultural experiences we will always treasure. Rest in peace, hundreds, if not thousands of MIT alumni will always remember you for your guidance and support. My thoughts are with her family.

Angela Chang SB ’97, SM ’02, PhD ’11 (MechE)
MIT Japan program Summer, 1996


looking forward to visiting Pat in Cambridge.

I participated in the MIT Japan program in 2000, right after completing my undergraduate degree. The amount of time and love Pat put into the program and participants is one of the reasons I look so fondly back at my MIT experience. I will always remember her beautiful smile, her stylishness, and her wisdom. I spent almost ten years at MIT, completing BS, MEng and PhD degrees, and stayed involved with the various MISTI programs during most of that time. Pat became a mentor to me and I would go to her whenever I needed advice about anything. Even after MIT, she was a great support, writing recommendation letters for me as I applied to various jobs in the real world. Pat was also very nurturing - she would see me heartbroken after a breakup, give me a giant hug and say "you are going to meet a man one day and he will be your wall and he will build you up". Years later, I met this man who is now my husband. When I told Pat about him, she was elated. We have been living in Beijing for the past 8 years and moved back to the US last year. I was hoping to introduce them to each other. They would have really liked each other.

I will miss her lots.

With love and respect,
Xiaomin Mou
MIT Japan Program 2000


I came to MIT as an undergraduate student from Los Angeles in Fall 1997 after spending the summer in Japan attending a physics summer school in Tokyo and Tsukuba for high school students from countries around the Pacific Rim.  I took the "raw fish" course in the political science department taught by Dick Samuels and read Pat's book as part of the course readings.

Through the next four years that I lived in Cambridge, I would see Pat at the Japanese language lunch table on the top floor of the building with the MIT Press book shop on the ground floor.  As my senior year approached she suggested that I do the MIT-Japan program and arranged for me to work in physics at the University of Tokyo for the summer after graduation.  During that summer I travelled to Kyoto and met the family of my brother's wife.  

Perhaps the coda to the story came when my brother's youngest son Kyle came home to Los Angeles from visiting his mother's family in Japan and was asked by my dad who in Kyle's family is Japanese.  Kyle said well of course he is Japanese, and so is his mom and older brother.  Uncle Noah, Kyle reported matter-of-factly, is kind of half-Japanese.

Noah Bray-Ali
MIT-Japan program Summer 2001


Pat's enthusiasm for teaching and Japan was contagious. I learned so much about Japanese culture from her. When I was interning in Japan, my first time in Japan and living in a foreign country, I could feel her support from afar. Because of this, I could feel more at ease with my new surroundings, knowing that she would be there to answer questions and help if anything went amiss. I also felt her training in every day that I was at work and living in Yokohama. I remember that time in my life, a thrilling and uneasy time, living and working in Japan, with love, joy, and "natsukashi".

Joyce Wu
MIT Japan Program 2000


I'm so sorry to hear about Pat's passing.  I don't have any stories about her per se, but I do want to say that Pat was one of the few people at MIT who believed in me and made me believe in myself.  She made me feel like I had something to offer the world in a place full of very intimidating people.  And that was just through the few interactions I had with her on the MISTI program.  I feel truly blessed to have known her.

My condolences to her family.

Lily Huang
Course 6, Class of 2006
MIT Japan Program 2005