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Senior trustee, Thomas D. Cabot, dies at 98

Thomas Dudley Cabot, the longest serving member of the MIT Corporation, died June 8 at his home in Weston at the age of 98.

Mr. Cabot, a Life Member Emeritus of the Corporation who was first appointed as a term member in 1946, regularly attended meetings of the trustees until shortly before his death and marched in the 1994 Commencement procession.

In fact, Mr. Cabot, who was director emeritus of Cabot Corp., manufacturer of petrochemicals, still went to his Boston office at 75 State St. from his home in Weston on a "very regular basis," according to a company spokesperson. "I manage to find something to do," he said in an interview in 1992.

MIT Chairman Paul E. Gray and President Charles M. Vest took note of Mr. Cabot's 95th birthday in 1992 in a letter they sent to him. "We count ourselves fortunate indeed to have your continued participation in the MIT Corporation meetings," it said. "The fact that you. take an interest in the many issues associated with the governance of the Institute is deeply inspiring to your MIT trustee colleagues and to us. Your wisdom and your support are always there when needed."

Although he played an important role in MIT's affairs, and with other family members was an MIT benefactor, Mr. Cabot did not graduate from the Institute. He took courses at MIT when it was called Boston Tech and located on Boylston Street, Boston. The courses-which included thermodynamics, aerodynamics and shop practice-were taught by faculty members with joint appointments at MIT and Harvard. He was enrolled at Harvard and received his bachelor's degree in engineering there, cum laude, in 1919.

His father, Godfrey Lowell Cabot, attended MIT for one year in 1877-78 and graduated from Harvard with a degree in chemistry in 1881. He also served many years on the MIT Corporation starting in 1930, and became a Life Member.

Still another member of the family is currently a Life Member of the Corporation. He is Thomas Cabot's son, Louis W. Cabot, a Harvard graduate and also a director emeritus of Cabot Corp.

Thomas Cabot was born in Cambridge into one of Boston's oldest families on May 1, 1897, the son of Godfrey and Maria Moors Cabot. On graduation from college, he entered his father's business in West Virginia. He expanded it to other states and eventually into foreign countries while broadening the fields of its interest into a diversity of products. The company now is the leading producer of carbon black-the material that helps produce automobile tires, paint and printing ink-and a supplier of raw materials to a variety of industries, with annual sales of $1.7 billion.

Mr. Cabot, with 49 unbroken years of service to MIT, was elected a Life Member of the Corporation in 1951 and Life Member Emeritus in 1972. He served on many of the Corporation Standing and Visiting Committees and served a number of terms as chairman of Visiting Committees. He also took on additional tasks as they arose.

In 1960 he established the Thomas Dudley Cabot Scholarship Fund as part of the permanent endowment. There have been other gifts in his and his family's name and, in 1977, members of Mr. Cabot's family honored him by endowing the Thomas Dudley Cabot Institute Chair.

He has also served the government in a number of capacities. In 1951 during the Korean War President Harry S. Truman appointed him director of International Security Affairs in the Department of State, in charge of rearming Europe.

A former president of United Fruit Co., Mr. Cabot also served on the boards of a number of institutions in the industrial, educational and philanthropic fields. He held honorary degrees from several universities, including Harvard, where he served two terms as an Overseer.

A man of action since his days as a flying officer in the Army during World War I, he was a trophy-winning sailor whose latest book was Avelinda: The Legacy of a Yankee Yachtsman. His love of the outdoors also included canoeing, skiing, hiking and camping. In 1934, he co-authored Quick Water and Smooth, the first canoe guide to New England rivers. He had been president of both The Appalachian Mountain Club and the Harvard Travellers Club.

Services were held June 14 in Harvard University's Memorial Church.

He leaves his wife, Virginia (Wellington) of Weston; four sons, Louis W. of Boston, Thomas D. Jr. of Greenwich, CT, Robert M. of England and Edmund B. of Belmont; a daughter, Linda Black of Cambridge; 29 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 21, 1995.

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