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Walter Bender will head Media Lab

Media Laboratory founding member Walter R. Bender, a senior research scientist who heads the News in the Future Consortium, has been promoted to executive director of the laboratory, effective September 1.

Mr. Bender, who will concentrate on internal growth and development of research and sponsor relations, succeeds Nicholas P. Negroponte, the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Technology, who is now senior director, a new position.

"This chairman-like role more accurately reflects my increased attention to external and international relations and fund raising," Mr. Negroponte wrote in a letter to sponsors announcing the appointments.

Assistant Professor John Maeda, head of the Aesthetics and Computation Group, succeeds Mr. Bender as the lab's associate director.

The Media Laboratory, nurtured into existence in the 1970s by Jerome Wiesner (MIT president from 1971-80) and Professor Negroponte, has been housed since 1985 in the Weisner Building on Ames Street, designed by I.M. Pei. It is noted for playfulness and innovation in the use of technology.

Among the noted faculty are professors Marvin Minsky, Seymour Papert, Pattie Maes, Rosalind Picard, Joseph Jacobson, Tod Machover, Mitchel Resnick, Michael Hawley and Neil Gershenfeld. The lab, which has more than 170 sponsors worldwide, established a partnership last summer that created MediaLabEurope in Dublin.

"As we continue to reinvent ourselves, the Media Lab will maintain its focus on stretching intellectual boundaries while excelling in creative applications," Professor Negroponte said. "We look forward to working with all of you to ensure that the Lab remains a place in which students, sponsors, faculty and staff are enthused and dedicated to those goals."

Mr. Bender joined MIT's Architecture Machine Group as a graduate student upon his graduation from Harvard in 1978. He earned the SM two years later. He has participated in much of the pioneering research in the field of electronic publishing and personalized interactive multimedia.

Dr. Maeda received the SB and SM in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT in 1989. He went on to earn a doctorate from the Tsukuba University Institute of Art and Design in Japan, where he began to develop ways to bond the simplicity of good graphic design with the complex nature of the computer. Those experiments grew into a series of five Reactive Books that are today a worldwide-recognized standard for high-quality digital media design.

Professor Negroponte received the BAR and MAR in 1966, specializing in computer-aided design. Upon graduation, he joined MIT's faculty and two years later founded the Architecture Machine Group, a combination laboratory and think tank. He is author of the best seller Being Digital, and serves on the board of directors of Motorola, Inc. He has provided start-up funds for more than 20 companies, including Wired magazine, for whom he wrote a column from 1993-98.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 27, 2000.

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