Keynote speaker Dana Mead, chair of the MIT Corporation, told more than 200 alumni volunteers in Kirsch Auditorium Friday night that he knew they hadn't come to hear him talk.
"I am not in any way misled to believe that this crowd is here to see me," Mead said, referring good humoredly to the appearance of MIT President-elect Susan Hockfield, who greeted atttendees at the kick-off event of the annual Alumni Leadership Conference (Oct. 1-3) before returning home to New Haven, Conn.
"One of the things I've learned is that the alumni community is extremely important," Hockfield said. "These institutions have existed for years and the network of alumni has really formed the fabric of these places."
Hockfield said she loves learning about MIT through talks with students, faculty, staff and alumni, and that when she first began having conversations with the search committees about coming to MIT, she was drawn in by the Institute's "search for truth, the great meritocracy, and the intensity."
"Everyone here speaks this language," said Hockfield, who is provost at Yale University until December, when she will take office as MIT's 16th president.
Hockfield cited the academic and research collaborations between disciplines at MIT as one of the Institute's key strengths and said that interweaving engineering with life sciences "will not be done at that level at any other Institute on earth." She said that it is up to her and the MIT community to carry into the 21st century MIT's "remarkable" diffusion into all corners of the globe.
She has not yet set her goals for her term at the helm of MIT, she said, but she knows she wants to help the Institute "be an even better MIT than it is today."
"I really do want MIT to be the dream of every child on the planet, and working with you, we can make that dream a reality," said Hockfield.