Who's Who in HQ: Senior Individual Giving Officer Liz McGrath

Danielle Randall
February 16, 2017

Senior Inidvidual Giving Officer Liz McGrath has been at MIT since 2000. She serves as the Department's Development Officer, a role which involves stewardship of all gifts to the Department, including its endowed funds. Liz fundraises for specific major needs and spends time organizing fundraising events and meeting with prospective donors. She also produces Chemformation, the Department's monthly newsletter. In this edition of Who's Who in HQ, we'll learn more about the inner workings of Liz, including her superstitions, her secret talent, and the best vacation she's ever taken. 

1. How long have you been at MIT, and what brought you here? 

In 1980 (after returning to Ireland after 7 years in Australia working in an administrative capacity at the University of Queensland) I took up the position of Executive Assistant to one of the Directors of the Irish Dairy Board (think Kerrygold butter and cheeses) in Dublin, Ireland. After 8 years in that position, I left Ireland with my husband and young children to spend 5 years in Bahrain where I taught Bahraini men and women how to become Executive Assistants!  Soon after arriving in the States, I went back to school with the intention of eventually becoming a vet, something I had long wanted to do.  However, by then I was a single mother with two teenage children and it didn’t take me too long to realize I would not be able to afford to continue on that path. Reluctantly, I returned to administrative work and came to work at MIT in 2000.  It must be said that I don’t regret my decision to cease my veterinary aspiration. The Department of Chemistry has been a good fit for me, and I have been very happy in the various roles I have held over 17 years! 

2.  What was the last television show you binge watched?

A Danish show called Dicte.

3.  Who are three of your favorite fictional characters?

Spike (played by Rhys Ifans) in the movie "Notting Hill", Dickon, the gardener in the novel, “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and  William Brown in the “Just William" books written by Richmal Crompton.

4.  What would be your last meal?

An Indian Thali.

5.  What is your favorite four-legged creature?

I love dogs and cats equally, sorry, I simply can't choose between them.

6.  Which two celebrities would you pick to be your parents?

Michelle and Barack Obama.

7.  What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

When I was 17, immediately after graduating from High School in Dublin, Ireland, I was one of the first Irish people to purchase a Eurorail pass.  I travelled 18,000 miles by train that summer! It was an amazing experience.

8.  What are a few items on your bucket list?

I would like to become fluent in French. I would like to spend some time in India, Scandinavia, Japan, Alaska, and of course Ireland!  I would like to go zip-lining in Costa Rica. I would like to return to Africa where I spent time as a child when my father was on sabbatical. I would like to buy a Vespa!

9.  What brings you the greatest joy?

After a day hiking up one of the Twelve Bens in Connemara, it would have to be relaxing in a pub in Roundstone with family and friends, while listening to live traditional Irish music, and drinking pints of Guinness.

10.  What quote do you live by?

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

11.  What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

That time goes by in a flash and not to keep wishing to be a year older!

12.  Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?

Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan, Maggie Smith, Nanci Griffith, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie.  My dining room table seats eight!

13.  What will always make you laugh?

Dark humor.

14.  What is your go to karaoke song?

 I did once sing "American Pie,” but honestly, I don’t enjoy karaoke.

15.  What was your first job, ever?

At age 13 during the summer vacation, I washed hair in a local hairdressing salon.  Mostly I drenched the walls and other unsuspecting customers.  Despite my inadequacies in the job, I earned great tips!

16.  What is your favorite place in the world?

That’s tough, there are so many places I love.  Top picks would be the west of Ireland, and just about anywhere in France. There are many great places in the States, too.

17.  What song instantly puts you in a good mood?

“Woodstock" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

18.  Do you have a secret talent?

Brewing IPAs.

19.  What are your top three favorite movies?

Fargo, Letter to Brezhnev, and The Kids are Alright.

20.  What superstition do you believe in?


21.  If you could have any job in the world, other than working at MIT, what would it be?

A backup singer. Specifically, I would love to have been one of Leonard Cohen’s backup singers.  Take a listen to “Closing Time”.


Thank you so much, Liz, for all that you do for the Department of Chemistry on a daily basis! Stay tuned for more Who's Who in HQ in the months to come!