President Emeritus Vest will deliver Commencement address


MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest will be the speaker at MIT's 141st Commencement on Friday, June 8, in Killian Court.

Vest is currently professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. In September, a nominating committee of the National Academy of Engineering unanimously recommended his candidacy for the presidency of the academy; if elected by the NAE's membership in mail balloting that closes at the end of this month, he will begin a six-year term on July 1.

In making the announcement, MIT President Susan Hockfield said, "I am very pleased that Chuck Vest has agreed to give the 2007 Commencement address at MIT. During his 14 years as MIT's president, he quietly put his stamp on almost every aspect of the Institute and its life. At the same time, he achieved national and international recognition for his thoughtful insights into the crucial issues facing higher education and research in the United States and in our globalizing world. As he anticipates the next chapter of his career in Washington, it is the perfect moment for him to share with our graduates his reflections on the role of MIT in the world."

Professor Eric Grimson, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, serves as chair of the 2007 Commencement Committee, composed of faculty, students and members of the administration.

Expressing his pleasure at the choice of Vest as Commencement speaker, Grimson said, "As one of the leading figures in science and technology policy today, and a strong spokesman for the role that research universities play in driving the country's economic future, Chuck Vest has much to say to our graduates, while the deep affection and respect that so many in this community have for him will make his appearance as our speaker all the more meaningful."

Vest earned his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University in 1963 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan in 1964 and 1967, respectively. He is the recipient of 10 honorary doctoral degrees and is a life member of the MIT Corporation, the Institute's board of trustees.

As president of MIT from 1990 through 2004, Vest placed special emphasis on enhancing undergraduate education, exploring new organizational forms to meet emerging directions in research and education, building a stronger international dimension into education and research programs, developing stronger relations with industry and enhancing racial and cultural diversity at the Institute.

Vest has also worked to bring issues concerning education and research to broader public attention and to strengthen national policy on science, engineering and education. He chaired the President's Advisory Committee on the Redesign of the Space Station and serves on the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. He chaired the U.S. Department of Energy Task Force on the Future of DOE Science Programs, was vice chair of the Council on Competitiveness for eight years and is a past chair of the Association of American Universities.

Vest recently completed service as a member of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction and of the U.S. Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. He now serves on the Department of State Secretary's Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy and the Rice-Chertoff Secure Borders, Open Doors Advisory Board Subcommittee.

A collection of Vest's essays, "Pursuing the Endless Frontier: Essays on MIT and the Role of the Research University," was published by the MIT Press in 2004; his new study, "The American Research University from World War II to World Wide Web," is forthcoming from the University of California Press.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 14, 2007 (download PDF).


Topics: Commencement, MIT presidency

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