Professor Joel Moses, MIT's provost since June 1995, has announced that he will leave that position August 1 in order to more directly pursue his research and teaching interests.
Professor Moses, the Dugald C. Jackson Professor of Computer Science, has spent nearly two decades in academic administration -- as associate head and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), as dean of engineering and as provost.
Professor Moses, who informed the Academic Council of his decision Tuesday, will return to EECS to explore the development of complex software systems and to continue his teaching in the Systems Design and Management program.
"In accepting Joel's decision, I want to express my deep appreciation for his numerous contributions, which will continue as he turns to pioneering new work," said President Charles M. Vest. "Joel is first and foremost a citizen of the Institute who will continue to enhance the academic excellence of MIT." Dr. Vest said Tuesday that he is beginning consultations on the selection of a new provost, a decision which he said he intended to reach by early June (see accompanying article).
As provost, Professor Moses concentrated much of his effort on new Institute initiatives, including partnerships with industry, international programs, the environment and new uses of technology in education.
He did much to stimulate and guide MIT's leadership in forming and managing industrial partnerships, said Dr. Vest, who added that "MIT has entered into these partnerships without yielding its principles on publication or intellectual property." The latest partnership with the Ford Motor Co. is directed by Professor Moses and has a major component dealing with the environment.
The President noted that the Council on the Environment, headed by the provost, has overseen significant growth in education and research in this area, with research on the environment and energy now accounting for about 10 percent of all campus research.
In addition, he said, "Joel has been key to growing our international activities, to developing the Systems Design and Management program between the Schools of Engineering and Management, and to establishing the concept of a division as an organizational structure to foster interdepartmental activities." The new Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health within the School of Engineering is the first manifestation of this new type of organization.
Budgetary issues, many caused by shifts in the nature of federal support for higher education and research, have been a major focus of the provost's activity. He has played a major role in developing budget parameters as the Institute relies increasingly on support from the endowment and gifts; he was instrumental in developing the retirement incentive program in 1996; and he has worked with the academic leadership to define academic needs and priorities in anticipation of a major fundraising campaign.
"As we move into a period of new intellectual and financial opportunities and challenges, I am most grateful to Joel for helping position the Institute to meet them," said Dr. Vest.
Commenting on the role of the provost, Professor Moses said, "Administrators, as always, face the challenge of balancing the friction caused by change and progress while striving for a harmonious community. The new provost will face major challenges, but will be blessed by an Institute that is unique in having many peaks and no valleys in its intellectual map. MIT is poised for a great future and surely will be favored with a continuing stream of outstanding students."
Professor Moses was head of EECS from 1981-89 and dean of engineering from 1991-95. He first came to MIT in 1963 as a doctoral student in mathematics after receiving his master's degree in mathematics from Columbia University. He was appointed to the EECS faculty as an assistant professor in 1967 and was named full professor in 1977. His doctoral dissertation created the concept of knowledge-based systems, and his group used that concept to develop the MACSYMA system for symbolic mathematics between 1969 and 1982.
He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1986, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1987, Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1990, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1995. In 1993, he received the Centennial Award of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Professor Moses is a director of Analog Devices, Inc., and Coltec Industries, and is a member of the Corporation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 6, 1998.