February 2, 2022

This is MIT: Darlene Cox Reflects on 8 Years with MIT Rec

Darlene Cox is a core member of the DAPER facilities team, helping keep operations in and around athletics and recreation running smoothly. That said, you are most likely to recognize Cox’s friendly face from her cheery greetings around the MIT Recreation facilities or from her fierce support on the sidelines of MIT’s women’s basketball team.  

Whether it’s running supplies to the club hockey teams or just greeting students on their way into the fitness center, Cox tries to stay involved and offer this community a supportive outlet. 

“We have students that walk around here that are so encumbered in their world,” Cox explains. “It can be intense here, but it’s very important as staff to remember we are all human, and we here to help.” She goes on to say that while some people aren’t actively seeking help, it’s good to let them “..know that you will be there” for them if needed.  

When engaging with the students, Cox says it’s essential to remain open to the many feelings and stressors that come with being at a school as academically challenging as MIT.   

“Show compassion first and then laugh about everything afterward. Treat people in the way you want to be treated,” Cox says. “People see me and they’re happy to see me. They expect what I’m going to give them, which is ‘How you doing?’ ‘Good to see you.’ ‘Do you need something?’ ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ That’s what we are here for, that’s what I give people.”  

Cox has been actively engaged in athletics at MIT and says she is an avid fan of all teams. Cox, herself, played basketball throughout her youth and credits the team atmosphere for much of her personal success today.   

“I come from sports. I played basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, and went to college [on athletic scholarship], so to have this job is like a dream,” Cox says. “Being on a team most of your life gives you purpose.”   

Cox expressed that the opportunity to work with student-athletes so directly is one of the best aspects of her job and the MIT athletic/recreation community at large.  

“Being at MIT reminds me what it was like being young. It’s a refresher in how many people were there for me [when I was] on those teams,” Cox says. “For me, it’s a chance to give back everything that everyone has ever instilled in me.”  

In reflecting on who she is today, Cox emphasizes how integral the team dynamic has been for her in finding the right path for her life — something she hopes the students she works alongside will also realize and appreciate.  

“Being on a team is a family,” Cox states. “It helps you as you get older … because it does take a community to raise a child, and if I had not played basketball, I would have been [very different].”  

Cox has been a part of the DAPER facilities team for nearly ten years and is nearing her retirement. As for her big plans once she does retire, Cox says she is going to embrace a lack of urgency.  

“When I retire, I am going to marvel at not having to be up at 3 in the morning,” Cox says smiling. “And having a breakfast that I don’t have to rush. I love breakfast!”   

Besides adopting a leisurely morning routine, Cox says she looks forward to seeing parts of the greater Boston area that natives often dismiss, such as the aquarium or the Boston Museum of Science. What won’t change for Cox is her interest in her community and her desire to connect.  

“I’m not afraid to learn. I’m not afraid to share. I’m not afraid to listen,” Cox explains. “I think that I listen well and it makes people gravitate toward me. They don’t feel threatened in any way. They don’t feel like I’m going to judge them … I like that part.”   


Interview and article by: Maddy Jackson