At 100, John Kraus ’41 is one of the MIT Alumni Association’s oldest and longest-serving volunteers. In July 2018, he announced that after 70-plus years as a volunteer—including nine as the 1941 class secretary—he had penned his final column for Class Notes.
“Having just been privileged to celebrate my 100th birthday in good health and, happily, having received no obituaries for the last two columns, I’ve decided to let future class information be included in the report for other early classes,” wrote Kraus, who began volunteering for MIT in the 1940s, in that column. “With very few classmates left to contribute news (good or bad), our column is bound to gradually fade away.”
But Kraus, who lives in Newport Beach, California, is decidedly not fading away himself. He recently moved into an assisted-living facility. “That greatly simplifies day-to-day living,” he reported in his final column. “Because it provides transportation, I’ll no longer own a car, for the first time since 1936.”
A self-described lifelong volunteer, he says he has always sought out leadership positions with nonprofit groups. “As class secretary, I have especially enjoyed keeping in touch with classmates and making new friends,” he adds.
Kraus continues to sail every week, a lifelong avocation he honed as a student at MIT. It is also a skill that he has sought to bring to others over the years, especially through his work at the Newport Beach senior center, called Older Adult Social and Information Services (OASIS). Last year he was reelected to the board of directors of Friends of OASIS, a California nonprofit corporation that supports the center by providing volunteers and funds. His reelection extends his membership there until he reaches 102. Kraus is also the corporation’s treasurer and a member of its investment committee. The OASIS sailing club, under his leadership, has grown to 200 members, including 23 certified skippers.
When he is not sailing, Kraus also enjoys travel; he recently returned from a 12-day trip to Alaska. On his way back to California, he was asked about the secret to his longevity. “If I knew the secret, I would be a millionaire,” he said with a laugh.
Meanwhile his involvement with MIT endures. A general engineering major, Kraus spent his career working at TRW, North American Aviation, and the space station division of McDonnell Douglas, retiring at age 75. He remains connected with new generations of fellow alumni through the MIT Club of Southern California.