Remembering MIT Copytech Director Casey Harrington
- February 6, 2024
Casey Harrington, who led MIT Copytech’s recovery from pandemic-era disruptions and built close friendships across campus, passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 13. He was 49.
Copytech’s director since 2022, Harrington modernized the department’s equipment and services to improve its financial outlook, and led his staff with a personal touch.
“Casey was beloved by our team,” says Alfred Ironside, MIT’s vice president for communications. “He was a great manager, had a vision for the future, spent time with his co-workers, cared for them, and loved MIT. He turned around Copytech’s fortunes, too, setting it on an upward trajectory that reflected his wonderful abilities as a leader. His loss is enormous — for his wife, his children, his family, and for us.”
Although Harrington’s time at MIT was brief, he left a lasting impression on his team at Copytech and the people he worked with every day.
“Casey was a great leader, with a rare combination of vision, approachability, and genuine care and appreciation for our team,” Financial Officer Suha Bekdash says. “Since he joined two years ago, he made an immediate impact steering Copytech toward a more successful future after the pandemic.”
For those who knew Harrington well, he will be remembered for his numerous “Casey-isms,” which included “Be grateful” and “Do the next right thing.”
“I want his legacy to be, ‘Do the next right thing,’” his wife Marilyn Harrington says. “Coming to MIT was the next right thing for our family, and he always did the next right thing for our family. There was no way for us to predict this tragedy. He did the next right thing for his staff and for MIT leadership. He always did his best. He left this world very loved, very respected, and he left a hole that will never be filled.”
Leading Copytech by building friendships
Harrington came to MIT with big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Steven Dimond, had worked at Copytech for 50 years. On top of that, Copytech was emerging from a pandemic that caused business to stall as people left campus and more events went online.
“That had been an extremely difficult number of years for Copytech, both financially and also just for the morale of people,” says Danyel Barnard, MIT’s executive director of digital, brand, and internal communications. “He took a job that was a challenge. We needed someone who could come in and help turn things around. He was really excited about the opportunity, and about being at MIT, and he was eager to lead the organization through those challenges.”
Harrington came to MIT with deep expertise about the print industry. Prior to MIT, he had worked at large private companies, global health care groups, and Vanderbilt University.
“He could take the transcript of a book and say, ‘It needs to be this size book print with this size paper and this many pages,’” Marilyn Harrington recalls.
At MIT, he hit the ground running by working out new service contracts and pitching ideas for new equipment, including a new, large-format printing machine.
“In his two years here, he did amazing things with the operation,” says Barnard. “He led a big turnaround financially, a lot of which I credit to his management and leadership. He had great foresight and truly exceeded expectations.”
Most importantly, Harrington established personal connections with the Copytech team and his colleagues across the Institute.
“Casey was a great leader,” Administrative Assistant Taj Dickson says. “He loved Copytech and he loved MIT. When he came, he fit right in with us. People have been in Copytech for so long, and when they leave there’s always trepidation that the new person is not going to understand how to deal with the department. But he came in and figured it out, and the transition was really smooth because of his emotional intelligence as a leader. I think that was one of his hallmarks: He was a very emotionally intelligent leader.”
It was perhaps an unlikely match. Harrington’s southern accent was a stark contrast with many of the Bostonians in Copytech. But their different backgrounds served as a conversation piece more than a point of difference.
“The staff universally loved him,” Barnard says. “He was a perfect fit and a perfect leader for them. He really cared about them, and that is so important at Copytech, where they consider themselves a family.”
His wife describes MIT as Harrington’s “dream job” and says he was grateful to Copytech’s staff for embracing him.
“He left MIT in a better place than he found it because of the support he got from the team and from MIT leadership,” she says.
A strong leader
Harrington was born in Nashville and was a proud graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He was also deeply devoted to his family. He met Marilyn when he was 13, and their friendship blossomed into a 27-year marriage.
Casey moved to Boston while his family figured out where their youngest child would attend high school, but they made a point to see each other as much as possible — Marilyn estimates they spent well over 400 days together in his first two years living in Boston.
“Once, I texted him that I wasn’t doing well and I needed to see him, and he was on my doorstep four hours later,” Marilyn recalls. “He didn’t even have a bag, only his laptop. That was the kind of person he was.”
“You could really have honest conversations with Casey,” Dickson says. “He would have no problem talking about his experiences, good and bad, and it was up to you to find the lesson in those stories.”
When news of Harrington’s passing got around MIT, Barnard heard from people in disparate departments who she didn’t even realize knew Harrington explaining they had become friends.
“He found ways to connect with people,” Barnard says. “I was amazed by his reach.”
In honor of Harrington and in a nod to his love for University of Tennessee football, the Copytech team wore orange shirts and blue jeans to work on Jan. 29. They say they’ll continue to honor Harrington through their work.
“He was a strong leader who was full of life, and he still had so much to offer Copytech,” Dickson says. “His ability to communicate, his unique sense of humor, and his love for our department were just a few of the highlights that made Casey shine.”
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